2009 June 22

babyYesterday was the longest day of the year, and fortunately, it was not too hot, but as the summer holidays approach more and more children will be exposed to the dangers of the sun by ignorant or even well-meaning parents.

Sun damage is for life and can cost lives. Even people with dark skins develop melanomas, which are skin cancers, and children are much more likely to burn than adults – and burnt skin is something that is often seen as a precursor of melanoma risk. Sunburn is painful and frightening to children and can ruin a holiday, so there’s no reason to allow your kids to be at risk of avoidable suffering.

The first thing is to keep them out of the sun when it’s highest overhead – say between 10 and 4 in the northern hemisphere – give them something more fun to do indoors instead.  And remember that the majority of serious sun damage occurs during daily activities, not on high days and holidays.

The next thing is to ensure that you protect kids from sun damage by shielding their skin from UV rays – to check if clothing will screen out potentially harmful rays, put your hand inside the T-shirt and check that you can’t see your skin through it.

Babies are a special case – they have much more fragile skin and because they haven’t developed the ability to produce melanin, they burn more quickly than adults or other children. Babies under six months must be kept out of the sun completely as sunscreen should not be used on them, so keep them under an umbrella or cabana or if they must be in the sun, dress them in baby clothing covers the body like a babygrow or long-sleeve T-shirt and leggings, making sure they wear a hat with a big brim too.

If the sun is really hot, keep your older child inside or in the shade, but when it’s not too baking outside, dress them in a long-sleeved shirt and trousers and apply sunscreen to exposed areas. Hats are essential for children of all ages too. Never allow kiddies to run around for long in swimwear, as exposed shoulders often bear the brunt of sunburn, instead pop them into a short-sleeved T-shirt as soon as they are reasonably dry.

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