With Father’s Day just behind us, dermatologists are giving parents two thumbs up for keeping sun protection top of mind for their families. According to a new survey from the American Academy of Dermatology, 74% of parents today say they worry about sun protection more with their children than their parents did with them. Ninety percent of parents believe it’s important to teach their children healthy habits now so they will keep them when they are adults.
More parents today are aware of the risks associated with sun exposure and recognize the importance of protecting their children from the sun. The increased awareness could stem from increased knowledge about skin cancer prevention and sun protection, signaling that public education on these topics might be paying off.
For example, according to the survey, most Americans report knowing that it’s possible to get sunburnt on a cloudy day; that sunscreen has an expiration date; and that people with dark skin tones can get skin cancer too.
Sharman Dudley, a mother of two, knows first-hand how critical it is to practice safe sun, both for herself and her family. Diagnosed with melanoma four times, Dudley says she’s grateful her skin cancers were detected early, when they were most treatable. This experience makes her particularly mindful of her kids’ skin health now as well.
“While we still enjoy the outdoors, having melanoma has changed the way I plan our activities outdoors, like making sure to find or create shade during periods of peak sunlight,” she says. “We also don’t leave our house without wearing sunscreen and bringing wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses with UV protection, and lightweight and long-sleeved shirts that we can throw on when needed.”
Sunscreen isn’t the only way for busy parents to shield their kids from the sun, but rather one component of a comprehensive sun protection plan. Additional steps parents can take to keep their children safe while outdoors include:
Seek shade, particularly between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm,when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Shade is the best way to protect children from the sun, especially if they are younger than six months old. Keep your children in the shade as much as possible, and if you can’t find shade, create your own using an umbrella, canopy or the hood of a stroller.
Dress kids in sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible.
Avoid sunscreen use on children younger than six months old. Keep infants in the shade, and protect their skin using sun-protective clothing, including hats that shade the neck and ears.
If shade and adequate clothing are not available, apply sunscreen to all skin not covered by clothing to children older than six months old. Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a child’s sensitive skin. Remember to reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating, as there is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen.
Wear sun-protective swimwear, and use extra caution near water and sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase the chance of sunburn.
Stay safe on hot days. In addition to sun protection, keep your family safe on hot days by making sure your kids drink plenty of fluids and do not get overheated.
Although most parents prioritize sun protection for their kids, this doesn’t always translate to protecting themselves from the sun. According to the survey, 40% of survey respondents reported that they’ve applied sunscreen to their kids but didn’t apply it to themselves.
Sun protection is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adulthood. Always protect yourself and your family from the sun and see a board-certified dermatologist if you have any questions about how to use sun protection and other ways to prevent skin cancer.
Information provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.