As you send your children off to the wilds of summer camp, the pool, the lake, and other very sun-intense places, you should know some basic facts about young people and exposure to intense sunlight that includes ultraviolet rays. Young people are very susceptible to photo damage of their skin for number of reasons:
*Their skin is thinner than adults, and radiation presumably penetrates that much deeper
*They haven’t been out in the sun as much, and they therefore have less pigmentation to act as a natural sunscreen and to limit photo damage
*They are less aware of their surroundings and the danger intense sun exposure poses for them.
*They are therefore much less likely to protect themselves by getting out of the sunlight.
*Since sun damage may take more than 25 years to show itself, very young children are much more likely to live long enough for light-induced tumors actually to form.
*Finally, young children are more likely to expose more skin to the sun because they often lack inhibition to being naked or semi-naked.
If all that isn’t enough, consider the following data collected a number of years ago. People who had a severe BLISTERING sunburn in childhood have increased their chance of the deadliest type of skin cancer–melanoma skin cancer–tenfold! That’s right, they were TEN TIMES more likely to develop skin cancer than their peers who had not had severe skin damage as a child. The genetic injury to the skin cells that ultraviolet radiation causes is permanent and will be carried with your child for the rest of their days. I don’t think there is any doubt that a BLISTERING sunburn is really bad for you and your children.
Let’s review some things you need to consider at the beginning of the summer to make your next day in the sun as safe as possible:
*Use clothing with tight weaving or added sun protection to cover your children as much as possible. Hats, special swim clothes, and sunglasses with UV protection are great. Try to get clothes with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of at least 25 or better.
*Try never to talk about a “healthy tan,” and make sure you set a good example by protecting your skin as well.
*Avoid prolonged outdoor activities at peak sun times: 10am to 2pm.
*Try to stay in shade whenever possible.
*In children six months or older, use a good sunscreen on areas most prone to sun damage (THE TOPS): top of nose, top ears, top of feet, and top of shoulders. I recommend sunscreens with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Blue Lizard and Vanicream are two of my favorites. Put them on frequently and liberally!
*Early summer seems to be the time of year for the worst burns. Be especially careful in May/June.
Have fun, but be smart about it.