Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of sunlight for several reasons. First, their skin has had little time to build up the gentle tanning and thickening needed to give a degree of protection and is, therefore, more likely to be damaged. In addition, children do not understand why they should protect their skin by avoiding the midday summer sun, wearing hats, covering up and applying sunscreens. So adults need to be vigilant on their behalf instead. What is more, they tend to be outside more often than many adults.
It is estimated that we receive around 50% of our total lifetime sun exposure by the age of 18 and it is overall lifetime exposure that leads to skin photo-ageing and possible skin cancer. It follows that the effort involved in minimising your child's sun exposure while young is worthwhile, particularly as habits developed early are much more likely to remain than those learnt later. By setting an example, and making sure children understand the dangers of sun exposure, we can lay the foundations for sensible behaviour in the future, to ensure that they have healthy skin throughout their lives.
Here our some pointers as to what we can do to protect children:
Do not let your baby's skin be exposed to direct sunlight at all and remember that babies can sometimes burn on sunny days even if they are shaded.
Protect even dark-skinned babies as they too can occasionally burn when young; all young skin needs protection.
Encourage young children to wear sunscreen during the summer months and to apply it carefully themselves. Choose one of the many brands packaged specifically for children with the aim of making it fun. Put appropriate preparations into your child's school bag and enlist the teacher's support where possible to encourage it's use before school breaks outdoors.
Always select products giving high protection for your children.
Encourage your children to wear a hat, ideally with some neck protection whenever they are outside in summer.
Look at the range of specially designed sun-protective clothes for children. These generally carry a high SPF rating, protect easily exposed parts of the body from direct sunlight (particularly the back and shoulders) and provide the same protection wet or dry.
Set a good example - behave sensibly in the sun yourself and explain to children why this is necessary