Did you know that just a few serious sunburns early in life can put your child on the fast track to skin cancer? What's more, some studies suggest that ultraviolet exposure before the age of 10 is the most important risk factor for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
If your kids are typical, they spend hours at a time outside, without thinking very much about all that sun. It's up to you to protect them with the right tools (and to nag them about using them!)
Keep these basics in mind:
The Worst Hours – The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It's much safer to schedule outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon.
Sunblock. Lots of it. Often. – Small children should wear physical sunblock containing zinc or titanium. Older kids should use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. And don't skimp. One ounce of sunscreen (about 2 tablespoons) per body is about right. And yes, it needs to be reapplied every couple of hours. Here's an idea. That smartphone that never leaves your kid's hands? Set the timer on it to remind them about sunscreen.
Layers of Protection – The more the better. Beyond sunscreen and protective clothing, check your kids' play areas to make sure there's access to umbrellas and shade.
Tanning? Just Don't. – Do your teens think getting a tan is “cool?” Try telling them that skin cancer is definitely not cool. Yeah, they won't listen. But at the very least, steer them away from those horrendous tanning beds, and buy them some spray-on tanner. Way safer.
No Sun (or Sunscreen) for Infants. Period. – Babies less than 6 months old have almost no melanin, the pigment that darkens skin and protects against sunburn. Keep these little tykes covered up, and out of the sun. Put a cover on the stroller. Get window shields or UV window film for the car. Dress babies in wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves. But DON'T put sunscreen on them! Their sensitive skin can't handle it.
Common sense. Planning ahead. Vigilance. That's how we keep kids safe in the sun, so they can grow into healthy adults.
(Source: The American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)