As parents, we want to protect our children from every danger but that's just not possible. There will be illnesses and injuries and emotional turmoil that we can't always prevent.
But we can do something to lower the risk our children have for being diagnosed with skin cancer. It is important to apply (and reapply) sunscreen to avoid the immediate pain and discomfort of sunburns on our children. However, the long-term effects of excessive sun damage can be much worse than the sting of sunburn.
Melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer and it can be caused by overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. It accounts for 7 percent of cancers in children between the ages of 15 to 19, according to St. Jude.org.
It is dangerous because if it's not caught early, it can spread aggressively to other parts of the body. Some people who develop melanomas could have lowered their chance of contracting the disease if proper sun protection had been followed starting from the time they were young.
Applying sunscreen is the first step in protecting your children's skin from the sun.
It is only the first step though. Here are five things you can do now to protect your children from the sun and lower their risk for developing skin cancer.
1) Sit in the shade.
Try to avoid the strongest and most harmful UV rays, which happen in the middle of the day. Stick to indoor activities then, or at least seek out some shade from an umbrella, a tree, or other sun protector. Head indoors or into the shade before sunburn develops!
2) Cover up.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt when spending time outdoors. Use a long-sleeved rash guard shirt when swimming. Look for clothes with tightly woven fabric as that offers the best sun protection.
Darker colors also tend to offer better sun protection than lighter colors. Some clothing actually has SPF protection built in, so look for that if you or your kids will be outdoors for long periods of time.
3) Grab a hat.
Sun hats are not just about looking cool. Most of them offer great sun protection by helping to shade the face and scalp. Some can also shade ears and the neck.
Skip baseball caps and instead encourage kids to wear hats that offer full protection of their head (including neck and ears).
4) Use sunglasses.
Sunglasses are another item that most people wear for stylish reasons, however they can provide real protection for your eyes. Be sure to have your kids use sunglasses that block 100 percent — or close to it — of UVA and UVB rays.
Protecting your children's eyes now can lower their risk for developing cataracts when they are older.
5) Reapply sunscreen.
Putting sunscreen on your kids with at least a SPF 15 is a no-brainer. Remembering to reapply throughout the day, after swimming or excessive activity, is just as important.
For the best protection, apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. And be sure to protect typically forgotten body parts like their noses, lips, ears, and the tops of their feet.
With some preventative skin protection from the sun's UV rays you can lower the risk your child will have to deal with skin cancer in their teens or in adulthood. A little prevention goes a long way when dealing with the sun!
"How can I protect my children from the sun?" CDC.gov. Web. 8 July 2015.
"Melanoma." Stjude.org. Web. 8 July 2015.
Reviewed July 9, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith