By SUE HEWARD
It’s that time of year again. Time to hang up the bathers, dust off the school shoes and get the kids ready for back to school.
After weeks spent chasing little ones around the beach with hats and sunscreen, it’s easy for sun protection to take a backseat when it’s time to return to school.
But this year we are reminding parents to not let the sunscreen routine slip. Whether at the beach or in the playground, the sun’s UV is damaging.
Sun exposure during childhood and adolescence has a significant impact on skin cancer risk so it’s vital to ensure your children are well protected. Given lunch recess is usually during peak UV periods, applying sunscreen, along with wearing appropriate hats, clothing and shade, is very important. Children need to be able to access sunscreen, know how to apply it, and feel comfortable doing so.
With two in three Australians getting skin cancer before they turn 70, this is a health issue we just can’t ignore.
We want parents to put SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen on the top of the back to school list for the new school year so that each child has their own sunscreen in their school bag. It’s just as important for childcare and preschool too.
Wearing a sun protective hat is an expected part of the outdoor routine, applying sunscreen should be too.
Regular use of sunscreen has been shown to reduce the incidence of melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both in the short and long term.
Choose SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen. Make sure it is within its use-by date and is stored below 30 degrees. It is best to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to any exposed skin around 20 minutes before going outdoors. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours even if the stated level of water resistance is 4 hours.
It’s a good idea to teach children from about 3 years good sunscreen application techniques over the holidays so they’ll be all set.. If you follow the SunSmart steps at home, your children are more likely to remember to do it at preschool or school. It’s about getting those sun safe habits ingrained so that even when you’re not around, your children will still be slipping and slopping and slapping because that’s just the way things are done in your family.
Does your child’s preschool or school actively encourage sunscreen application before outdoor activities?
Sunscreen tips for parents
- Choose an SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen.
- Make sure it is within its use by date and is kept in a cool place (below 30 degrees).
- Choose a sunscreen that your child feels comfortable wearing and is easy to apply.
- Practice applying sunscreen so when children get to school they’ll be all set.
- Set up a sunscreen station in the bathroom at home so children can apply their sunscreen in front of the mirror and then wipe their hands
- Pop sunscreen in the cooler section of the lunchbox, it will then be cold when applying – especially nice on a hot, summer’s day
- Try a clip on sunscreen that can hang from your child’s school bag and act as a visual reminder
- Even if sunscreen states “4 hours water resistance’ – reapply every two hours
- Remember role modelling – children learn best from what they see adults doing.
- With the longer preschool sessions commencing in 2014, it’s very important for all preschools to include sunscreen application as part of their regular routine. One application at drop-off time is not enough.
- Make sure your children know the routine.
- Always use sunscreen in combination with sun protective hats, clothing, shade, and if practical, sunglasses.
- Get the free SunSmart app – its includes daily sun protection times, hourly predicted UV levels, weather details, a sunscreen calculator, sun protection reminder and vitamin D tool – and it’s all free.
For more information visit sunsmart.com.au.
1 Source: Sharplin G, Roth F. Sun protection policy and practice in Victorian primary schools: Evaluation of the National SunSmart Schools Program in Victoria from 1998 to 2011 (unpublished report). Cancer Council South Australia: Adelaide, Australia 2012.
Do you wear sunscreen every day? Do your kids?