Children are at greatest risk for long-term sun damage. The most harmful effects of sun exposure can occur during childhood. Children, in play and sport activities, are often exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight. It is important that children are active and get fresh air, but the health concern of over-exposure to UVR needs to be addressed. Parents and caregivers can take an active role in protecting young children’s skin from the sun and to educate them on how and why to protect themselves for life.
People don’t usually associate cancer with children. This is because there can be a lag time of many years for the clinical appearance of skin cancer to occur. It is important that people understand that it is actually the long-term effect of the sun that poses the greatest risk. It is essential that we protect our children’s skin.
The health risks associated with over-exposure to UVR are largely preventable. With some simple steps, eyes and skin can be protected. By making it an important goal to prevent sunburn and protect eyes you will be giving the children the best gift of all – health for tomorrow!
Sun Safety Recommendations
It is important that adults/caregivers be positive “sun-safe” role models for the children. Adults and children should follow these recommendations when outside:
Babies are not born with a developed skin protection system; therefore they are not able to protect their skin from the sun’s rays, meaning sunburns happen more quickly than in adults. Sunburns not only hurt, they cause skin damage and may cause dehydration and fever.
Look for or create shaded areas to do outdoor activities.
Wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible.
Put on UVR protective sunglasses.
Wear a wide brim hat (7.5 cm/3 inches wide) or with a back flap to cover the back of the neck.
Choosing & Using Sunscreen Products
Test for allergic reaction when first using a sunscreen product.
If applying more than one type of product (e.g. make-up, insect repellent*) on the skin, always put the sunscreen product on first and wait 30 minutes before applying the second substance.
Sunscreen products are valuable tools when the children are out in the sun but no product protects 100%. When the children are outside, using natural protection (clothing, hats and shade) should be the first choice. Then use sunscreen on all remaining exposed skin.
Canadian Dermatology Association. 2010, July 30. Protecting Your Family. Retrieved from www.dermatology.ca/sap/safety_resources/sun_exposure/index.html
Canadian Cancer Society. 2010, July 30. Being Safe in the Sun. Retrieved from www.cancer.ca/Ontario/Prevention/Use%20SunSense/Using%20SunSense.aspx?sc_lang=en
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010, July 30. Questions and Answers – Sunscreen. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm#sunscreen