Children who have been out in the sun a lot and have had serious sunburns (painful, blistering skin) will be at greater risk for skin cancer as adults. Experts think that as much as 60% of a person's lifetime ultraviolet radiation exposure happens in his or her first 18 years. This fact may sound scary, but in fact, all is not lost. If parents help their children protect themselves from the sun, some of the damage can be reversed or delayed. Simple things you can do include the following:
- Be shade seekers. Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight. Invest in a covered stroller or sun umbrella, and keep your little ones cool, happy and protected. Minimize sun exposure for all young children as much as possible. Stay away from the sun in the middle of the day (between 10 am and 4 pm).
- Cover up. Make sure children are wearing all the right gear - loose-fitting clothing (long-sleeved shirts and long pants if possible) made of tightly-woven fabrics such as polyester-cotton blends. Don't forget the wide-brimmed hat and the sunglasses.
- Reapply, reapply, reapply. Be vigilant and teach children to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming. You may want to consider using a sunscreen with a higher SPF, but remember that you will still need to reapply frequently. Sunscreen is not recommended for children under 6 months of age.
- Set a good example. Talk to your children about sun safety, and show them examples of how you protect your skin from the sun. Talk to schools and daycares to ensure that they are also sun safe.
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