With two-in-three Australians likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70, teaching kids to be sun smart is one health habit you can’t ignore.
According to the Cancer Council of Australia, more than 750,000 people are treated for one or more melanoma skin cancers each year.
Research suggests most of the sun damage occurs before the age of 18 and because skin cancer is largely preventable, now is the time to teach child about safety in the sun.
It’s imperative that when the UV Level is 3 or above, you protect your children against sun damage and skin cancer by using a combination of these five steps:
5 Ways To Teach Kids To Be Sun Smart
1. Teach them to slip on sun protective clothing
Talk about clothing that:
- covers as much skin as possible eg. shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars
- is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen
- if used for swimming, is made from materials such as Lycra, which stays sun protective when wet
2. Get them to slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen
You’ll have to do this until they are about 5 or 6 but once they’re old enough teach kids to do it themselves. A reward chart always helps.
Make sure the sunscreen is broad spectrum and water-resistant, and don’t use sunscreen to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and always use with other forms of protection too.
Apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours.
3. Make sure they slap on a hat
Most schools have a no-hat no-play policy so try and mimic that at home or when you go to the beach or park. Make sure they wear a broad-brimmed, legionnaire or bucket style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears; these are common sites for skin cancers.
While popular with kids, caps and visors do not provide enough protection. Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric – if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen.
4. Encourage them to seek shade
While it’s not always possible to get in the shade, this is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. At the beach set up a tent or a gazebo or use trees or built shade structures at parks.
Whatever you use for shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other protection, such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen, to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.
5. Remind them to slide on some sunglasses
Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Sunglasses should be worn outside during daylight hours and are just as important for kids as they are adults.
Buy close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067.
How To Be UV alert
- Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense.
- The SunSmart UV Alert, visit here, tells you the time period in which you need to be sun smart.
Check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you notice any unusual skin changes. If you have a lesion that doesn’t heal, or a mole that has suddenly appeared, changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed, see your doctor immediately.
Treatment is more likely to be successful if skin cancer is discovered early. Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.