As we head into the summer holidays, the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and Healthy Ireland are reminding parents and carers to protect children’s skin and be SunSmart this summer. Playing and spending time outdoors is good for your child but it is important to protect their skin when outside in the sun.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Ireland, with 13,000 cases annually. This number is projected to more than double again by 20451. Yet in most cases, skin cancers could be prevented by protecting skin.
Children’s skin is very sensitive to UV rays from the sun. Sunburn during childhood increases the risk of getting skin cancer as an adult. If your child is badly sunburned more than 3 times before the age of 20, they more than double their risk of skin cancer as an adult.
A recent study reported that nearly 90% of 10 to 17 year olds in Ireland said they have experienced sunburn in their lifetime. Around 74% said they experienced sunburn at least once during the past year2.
Dr Katharine Harkin, Specialist in Public Health Medicine in the NCCP says: “Playing and spending time outdoors is such an important part of childhood but it is crucial that children are protected and safe in the sun. SunSmart outlines the steps you and your family can take to protect your skin from the sun and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
“Make SunSmart part of your daily routine especially from April-September when the intensity of UV radiation from the sun is greatest, even when it is cloudy. Seeking shade protects babies and children’s skin as it lessens the amount of intense sunshine reaching the skin. Sit in the cover of trees to avoid direct sunlight and always use a sunshade on your buggy or pram.”
SunSmart simple steps can protect children’s skin and avoid getting sunburn: Remember the SunSmart 5 ‘S’s’, even when it is cloudy:
· Slip on clothing: Cover skin as much as possible e.g. wear long sleeves, collared t-shirts, clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through.
· Slop on broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children which has high UVA protection and is water resistant. Reapply regularly.
· Slap on a hat with a wide brim: Protect your face, ears and neck.
· Seek shade: Sit in cover of trees to avoid direct sunlight and use a sunshade on your buggy or pram. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.
· Slide on sunglasses with UV protection: Guard your eyes from harm.
For children up to 1 year old, it is best to keep them in the shade and wear clothing that covers their skin when outdoors.
It is better to protect babies up to 6 months old from sunlight by using shade and clothing rather than sunscreen. You may choose to use sunscreen sometimes on small parts of baby’s skin. If you do, choose a sunscreen that is for babies such as sensitive or toddler sunscreen.
For more information and to learn how to protect yourself and your family this summer visit the SunSmart hub at www.hse.ie/sunsmart and check out #SunSmart on social media
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