Keeping kids sun safe

Ahhhh good old ‘straya, not only do we have a million and one animals and insects that can kill us, we also have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. And here’s a confronting fact for you- did you know that two in three Aussies will develop some form of skin cancer before they turn 70? crickey!

Yep, ultraviolet radiation (better known as UV) from the scorching Aussie sun is bad news. It can cause sunburn, skin damage, skin cancer and even damage to eyes.

However it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact as parents, we have the opportunity to significantly reduce the risk of our children developing skin cancer later in life. This is because research shows that UV damage that occurs in childhood significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer as we age. 

In fact skin cancer is actually one of the most preventable types of cancer around, so by being sun smart in childhood, we can reduce our children’s risk of having skin cancer as adults…how good is that?

When should we practice sun safety?

Kids can become sunburnt in as little as ten minutes of sun exposure so as soon as the UV is 3 or higher it’s time to be sun safe when stepping outdoors.

Hot tip: don’t rely on times of the day or the type of weather as an indicator to practice sun safety, as the UV can be high at unexpected times of day including during rainy or overcast days.

What’s the best way to track UV ratings?

Easy peasy, download the SunSmart or BOM app and check the UV every single time you head outdoors. 3 or over? its time to practice sun safety.

How do I practice sun safety for myself and my kids?

The best thing to do to stay safe from the sun is to follow the Cancer Council’s SunSmart ‘Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide’ plan. This is an easy and effective way to keep kids and adults safe.

1). Slip on clothing 

Try to cover as much skin as possible. Loose comfortable clothing is best (we don’t want to cause heat stroke) ohhh and try to choose long sleeve swimwear for kids where possible. 

2). Slop on sunscreen 

Slap on a SPF30 broad spectrum (or higher) water resistant sun cream to every area not covered by clothing. Skin cancers are often seen in places we forget to put on suncream- think lips, ears, nose, hands, feet and neck. 

Chemical sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure to be effective. You should reapply every 2 hours regardless of what the tube says and always reapply after being in the water, playing sports, sweating or drying yourself with a towel as these can reduce the effectiveness of sunscreen.

Remember sunscreen does not completely block out the UV so make sure to use other methods of sun protection.

3). Slap on a hat

Remember the old playground rule “no hate no play” well this is still relevant 20 something years later…unlike my sweet Hypercolour cap.

A broad brimmed, bucket or legionnaires hat is best to keep the face, eyes, neck and ears covered. Save the baseball caps or visors for indoors sporting events only as they don’t quite cut the mustard in terms of sun safety. 

4). Seek shade

Always bring shade tents to the beach, choose shady places to play outdoors and remember that UV can still cause damage to the skin in shady places so suncream / hats / covered clothing etc is still important.

5). Slide on some sunnies 

Did you know that the sun can cause burns / damage to eyes called photokeratitis? the risk of photokeratitis is particularly high when sun reflects off the water at the beach or when boating, 

If your child doesn’t have any it’s time to go sunglasses shopping, i mean have you seen how cool kids look in sunglasses?

Make sure you choose sunnies with a strap to keep them in place for babies and toddlers. And ensure the glasses have a protection rating of 2, 3 or 4, anything under this will do diddly squat. Time to say goodbye to the cute novelty glasses I’m afraid.

What’s the deal with babies and sunscreen? 

Recommendations from the Australasian College of Dermatologists are that you should avoid the widespread use of sunscreen in babies under 6 months. In fact, because a baby’s skin is so delicate and sensitive to UV, you should try to avoid sun exposure all together in this age group.

For babies under 12 months the recommendation is to completely avoid exposure to direct sunlight once the UV hits 3

In circumstances where avoiding direct sunlight altogether is not practical (for either age group) the recommendation is to seek shade, cover skin with clothing, wear a hat and sunglasses and if needed use sunscreen only on small areas of skin exposed to the sun.

Consider completing a skin patch test before using sunscreen on babies. Place a small amount of suncream on the skin (the forearm works well) and leave for 48 hours, if your child has a skin reaction in this time wash the suncream off with soapy water and if not you are good to go.

What first aid should i apply if my child has been sunburnt?

Of course being sun smart in the first place is always the best option however sometimes accidents happen.

If your child is sunburnt and has no blisters or broken skin you should:

  • Ensure they are well hydrated 
  • Cool the skin with a cool compress or cool bath
  • Consider giving some pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen 
  • Keep them indoors to reduce the risk of further UV damage
  • Your child should see a GP if you are concerned for any reason

If your child has blisters or open skin as a result of sunburn you should:

  • Remove clothing not stuck to the burn, if any fabric from clothing is stuck to a burn you should cut around it with a pair of scissors
  • If the sunburn has occurred within 3 hours of blisters appearing, hold burns under cool running water for a minimum for 20 minutes, burn first aid can work for 3 hours following a burn
  • Consider giving pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen 
  • Cover burns with glad wrap or a non stick dressing
  • Do not use butter, creams or gels (such as aloe-vera) to open burns / blisters as they increase the risk of infection
  • Your child should see a doctor immediately 

To recap, prioritising sun safety not only keeps children safe from sunburn and other heat related illnesses, it can also significantly reduce the risk of them developing skin cancer as adults. If you want to learn more about managing sunburn and more serious burns, book a course with us today and keep your loved ones safe this summer.

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