It’s never too early to teach kids about sun protection, as UV rays and sun exposure can cause cumulative skin damage over time and are linked to skin cancer. It is important to begin teaching children at a young age about protecting themselves from sun exposure, as this will instill good habits. Parents can make it interactive by teaching their children fun methods, such as looking to see if their shadow is shorter than them when they are outside. If it is, then that means it is the time of day when the sun’s rays are the strongest and they should try to find shade.
Parents of babies younger than 6 months should talk to their pediatrician before applying sunscreen. Babies under 6 months should be kept in the shade when outdoors. When applying sunscreen to a baby for the first time, apply in a small area to ensure the baby is not allergic to the sunscreen before applying all over the body.
Sunglasses are recommended to protect their eyes, as cumulative sun damage to the eyes can cause macular degeneration.
Sunscreen is always an essential part of protecting your children from sunburn and skin damage. Key guidelines to remember when applying sunscreen on your children, as well as yourself, are to:
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
- Apply 30 minutes before going outside.
- Continue to reapply every 2 hours — and more often if your little one is sweating or playing in water.
It’s important to choose broad spectrum sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays affect the surface layers of the skin and are the rays that cause sunburn. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and cause aging. Both types of UV rays lead to cumulative skin damage.
Cone Health Cancer Center educates children throughout the community about sun safety through the “Slip, Slop, Slap” program. This program teaches children to “slip” on a dark-colored shirt, as UV rays can penetrate light-colored or white shirts; “slop” on some sunscreen; and “slap” on a wide-brimmed hat before going out in the sun. To learn more about this program, call 336-832-0838.
Christine Brannock, BSN, RN, OCN, is the oncology outreach manager at Cone Health Cancer Center. Brannock earned a Bachelor of Science in public health education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2001, an associate degree in nursing at Guilford Technical Community College in 2004, a Bachelor of Science in nursing from East Carolina University in May 2016, and is an Oncology Certified Nurse. She has been an employee at Cone Health for nearly 20 years.