Australia is a nation of beachgoers, surfers, swimmers and sport fanatics. We love the sun. But we also have the highest skin cancer rates in the world.
Studies have proven that childhood exposure to the sun’s UV radiation increases a person’s risk of skin cancer later in life. While sun protection is important for everyone, it is especially critical in children under 15 years.
So what can you do to protect your children from the sun?
Babies under 12 months should be kept out of the sun completely. Babies under six months of age have highly sensitive skin, so minimal sunscreen is recommended. For infants, it is best to provide physical barriers against the sun, such as hats and loose-fitting clothes with tightly woven fabrics.
Children of all ages should wear a hat that protects the face, neck and ears. A broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 is necessary even on cloudy or cool days. Check the UV Index before heading outside, and avoid going out in the sun when the Index is 3 or above.
Shade does not necessarily protect against sunburn, as UV radiation reflects off concrete, water, sand and snow. Make sure you apply a liberal amount of sunscreen, even in the shade, and reapply it every two hours.
The effects may seem minimal when it occurs, but sun exposure in childhood leads to harmful skin cancers later in life. Once the damage is done, the best defence against skin cancer is early detection, when the chances of successful treatment and survival are highest.