May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s an ideal time to ensure that you and your family are protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This protection is especially important for young children, as even one severe sunburn can increase their melanoma risk later in life.
Here are some tips to ensure that toddlers and preschoolers are protected from sun exposure.
Apply sunscreen before going outside
Look for a child-friendly sunscreen that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF of at least 30. For younger children, a spray-on sunscreen may be easier to use. Applying sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure will ensure that it is absorbed by the skin and won’t rub off when your child is outdoors. Don’t forget areas such as the ears, scalp, and the back of the neck. Reapply every two hours, or sooner if your child has been swimming.
Avoid the sun during peak hours
The sun’s UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, so reduce your child’s exposure during those times. Plan indoor activities if possible, or try to stay in the shade if you must go outdoors.
Choose appropriate clothing
During the hotter summer months, it may seem logical to dress your child in light clothing that reveals their arms and legs. However, clothing that covers the skin is one of the most effective ways to stay protected from UV rays. Opt for long sleeves and pants if possible, in darker colors that help to prevent sunlight from hitting your child’s skin. Accessories such as brimmed hats and sunglasses are also key for sun protection.
Stay protected all year
While the sun’s heat is strongest during the summer, UV rays can do their damage any time of year. In fact, they can penetrate cloud cover, and even reflect off snow. Ensure your child is adequately protected from the sun all year.
Protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays is critically important for young children, but it is also easy to incorporate into your family’s busy life. By limiting sun exposure during peak hours, applying sunscreen, and choosing appropriate clothing, your toddler or preschooler can enjoy the great outdoors safely.