What do picnics, playing at the park, swimming, bike riding and exploring all have in common? Your first guess might be they are all summertime activities, which is true, but they all often take place in the sun too.
Over the past 30-plus years, malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has risen in children and teens an average of two percent every year. But you can preserve your sunshine's future by following the guidelines below.
Steer clear of midday sun. Do your best to avoid outdoor activities between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. Try to schedule a 9 A.M. swim lesson over the 1 P.M. session whenever you can. Plan an early-morning hike or a late-afternoon trip to the park.
Wear sun-protective clothing. Using rash guards, hats and sunglasses is a very effective way to reduce sun exposure. Encourage your young athlete to wear a long-sleeved uniform whenever possible.
Don't confuse temperature with sun intensity. The sun is not necessarily stronger when it's hotter outside. In fact, it is possible to get far more sun damage on a cool, clear day than on a warm, muggy one. Sun intensity is determined by a combination of where you are, what the weather is like and the time of year.
Don’t be deceived when the sun is hidden. UV rays, the rays that cause sunburns, can pass through clouds, meaning even cloudy days can cause significant sunburn.
Use proper sunscreen every day, all year. Keep it stashed in the car and know that it doesn't last forever. Sunscreens all have an expiration date, and after that point ingredients can be less effective. Sunscreens that contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid using products that combine sunscreen and the insect repellent DEET, since sunscreen must be regularly reapplied and insect repellent typically doesn't need to be reapplied.
Sunscreen is okay to use on children 6 months or older. Apply sunscreen liberally and often to all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, especially the face and neck. Re-apply sunscreen every two to three hours, especially if your child’s skin has become wet from perspiring, playing in water or swimming.
Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Protect your baby from sun exposure by dressing him or her in protective clothing such as a hat with a brim and sunglasses.
Pay attention to medication labels. Certain medications may cause skin to become more sensitive to sunlight. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.