After a long, cold winter, it’s tempting to soak up every ounce of sunlight possible. But trips to the cottage, visits to the park or hours by the pool should begin with making sure you and your family are protected against harmful UV rays.
More than 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year; more than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined. The shocking figures aren’t unique; the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation reports that skin cancer makes up roughly one in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide, and numbers are on the rise.
While it’s important to practice sun safety at any age, it’s especially important to protect babies and children. On average, 60 to 80 per cent of total lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. According to a recent study, sun damage (freckles and moles) and sunburns sustained during childhood are not only a predictor for skin cancer in adulthood, but increase the risk of developing the most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, by 80 per cent.
Here’s the good news: skin cancer is preventable, which is why we’ve gathered some tips to help keep your children sunburn free this summer!
Infants under 6 months of age are particularly susceptible to sunburns due to their ultra-sensitive skin. Although it’s recommended that young children avoid spending time outdoors midday when UV rays are strongest, it’s not always possible during the summer, especially when you want to keep an eye on your little one.
If you have to take your infant outside, it’s important to provide ample shade since experts recommend that any child under 12-months not be exposed to direct sunlight. Never drape a blanket over your child’s stroller to create shade, since it’s possible for your child to overheat, or suffocate. Instead, opt for a shady spot under a tree, or a UV protective tent that allows airflow while providing ample protection against UV rays.
Dress your baby in loose clothing and a wide brim hat to help cover as much skin as possible from UVA and UVB rays.
While sunblock isn’t recommended for use for babies under six months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that parents can apply a small amount of sunblock made for children with a minimum of SPF 15 if adequate shade is unavailable.
Keep an eye on your child for overheating, dehydration or any reddening skin.
Toddlers & Children
There’s more to sun protection than simply putting sunblock on your child and sending them off to play.
Although a vital part in protecting your child from sun damage and sunburn, your toolkit for sun safety should include some of these items:
Sunglasses: In addition to skin damage, UV rays can also damage eyes. Over time, sun exposure has been linked to burned cornea, cataracts and macular degeneration. Experts recommend that parents invest in sunglasses that offer 100 per cent UV protection to ensure safety against harmful rays.
Clothing: limiting the amount of direct access sunlight has to your child skin can help prevent burns and sun damage. While the average white T-shirt has an SPF of 3, there are clothing alternatives specifically designed to protect people of all ages while they’re in the sun.
The concept of Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) originated in Australia in the 1990s to inform shoppers how much sun protection a piece of clothing will provide. Clothing made from lycra had the highest UPF factor of 50, which blocks over 98 per cent of harmful UV rays followed closely by nylon and polyester.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has compiled a list of over 395 clothing, personal care and sun protection items care items approved by dermatologists with UPF ratings over 30.
In the Car
It may come as a surprise, but a majority of our sun exposure comes from travelling by car. Although windshields are treated to block UVA on top of glass protecting against UVB, the side windows of cars still allow for harmful rays to penetrate the skin.
Dermatologists in the U.S. have noted an increase in the amount of sun damage on the left side of the body compared to the right, and have attributed their findings to UVA exposure to car windows while driving.
To help protect passengers, try installing protective shades to your windows. Many offer UPF 30 protection, helping eliminate up to 97 per cent of UVA rays.
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