Just two incidents of blistering sunburn before the age of 18 can dramatically increase your child's risk of getting melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer) later in life. South Africa has one of the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.
The good news, however, is it can be prevented by choosing the right sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.
Here's an hour-by-hour guide to help you keep the little ones sun-safe throughout the day:
Beautiful day for the beach? Line up the whole family and make sure you're all covered in sunscreen before anyone sets foot outside.
Choose a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of between 30 and 50 – the higher the better. Buy one that's labelled "broad spectrum", which means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Hit the beach early in the day before the sun's damaging rays become too fierce. If you arrive before the crowds, you'll also get the best spot for your beach umbrella.
It's time to play in the waves: your child should be wearing an all-in-one bodysuit or at least a rash vest with UV protection. The rating for fabric is called Ultra-violet Protection Factor (UPF) and ranges from UPF 20 to 50+.
The sun has now turned dangerous – time to move into the umbrella's shade and build sand castles. Remember sand reflects UV rays so you should wear sunscreen even in the shade. Play it safe by reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
High noon! Between 12:00 and 15:00 the sun's ultraviolet rays are at their strongest so this is an ideal time to go home for a bite to eat and a siesta. Make sure your children drink water or juice to stay hydrated. Take it easy in the heat – you can allow the kids to play in the shade but it’s vital they stay out of the sun.
Before you return to the beach apply sunscreen again. The afternoon sun is still strong so stay under the umbrella as much as possible and ensure your child keeps wearing that hat. If he starts looking flushed, get him inside at once.
As the sun's rays are growing weaker you can now head back into the water or take a stroll along the beach. Just remember to apply more sunscreen first!
A few important tips:
- Babies younger than six months should not be in the sun at all. Little ones older than six months can go to the beach but remember to apply a special soothing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50.
- Apply sunscreen at least half an hour before you hit the beach to allow enough time for it to penetrate the skin.
- Remember to lather sunscreen on those oft forgotten spots: back of knees, ears, eye area, neck and scalp.
- Protect your child's lips with a lip balm that has a high SPF.
- Don't forget your hats!
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Image:Happy child holding sunscreen lotion in hand, summer vacations concept from Shutterstock