Enjoying the sun during outdoor activities is a favourite pastime for many people living in Australia. Too much sun, however, has been shown to cause skin damage and skin cancer. Sun safety practices can protect you and your children from the damaging effects of the sun and reduce the likelihood of long term harm.
Young children produce more body heat, sweat less and their temperature rises at a faster rate, putting them at a greater risk of heat related illness.1
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.2 In 2012, 12,036 people were diagnosed with melanoma of the skin.2 Of these, malignant melanomas are responsible for the deaths of about 1,617 people ever year in Australia. A further 434,000 people are estimated to be diagnosed with non- melanoma skin cancer and result in 592 deaths every year.2
Sun exposure as a child can significantly affect the likelihood of skin cancer later in life.2 Babies are particularly vulnerable to hot weather and care should be taken to prevent them from overheating. Their delicate skin is also more easily damaged by UV, so avoid exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the middle part of the day when UV levels are at their highest. Small amounts of sunscreen can be applied to any areas of the skin not protected by clothing or shade. There is no evidence that sunscreen is harmful to babies however some babies might experience minor skin irritations.2
In Australia, an average of 24% of teenagers and 8% of children are sunburnt on a summer weekend. Over 50% of Australians wrongly believe that a tan looks healthy. Tanning increases your risk of skin cancer.
It is very dangerous to leave children in a car unattended. Approximately 5,000 children are rescued every year after being left in a car.3
The law, in Australia, states that all sunglasses sold must comply with the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1067:2003).
All sunscreens supplied in Australia must be tested to the Australian Standard AS/NZS2604:2012: Sunscreen products- Evaluation and classification.
Sunscreens are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Cancer Council NSW recommends protecting your skin in five ways:
Protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and loose clothing with a close weave can prevent skin damage from the sun. Some clothing is labelled with information about its ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). UPF-40 or above offers very high protection and UPF-15 and above offers good protection.
Broad spectrum sunscreen means it protects you from both types of radiation (UVA and UVB).4 The higher the sun protection factor (SPF) number, the better it protects you against sunburn. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen, meaning they don’t get enough protection.2 Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going in the sun and then reapplied every two hours.
Choose a hat that is broad-brimmed or with a flap at the front and back (legionnaire style) so that your child’s face, ears and neck are protected. A hat made of close-weave fabric will reduce the amount of light that gets through. Baseball caps and sun visors are not recommended as they do not provide enough protection.
Shade is more ideal than full sun, however sunburn can still occur in partial shade or when cloudy.
Sunglasses can protect your child’s eyes from short and long term damage. Sunglasses designed to wrap around the eyes do this well. Always purchase sunglasses which meet the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1067:2003). Sunglasses with an eye protection factor (EPF) value of 9 or 10 protect from almost all UVR.5 Toy sunglasses are not covered by the Standard and should not be used for sun protection.
Sunglasses or goggles at the snow will also help to reduce exposure from glare and reflected UVR.
Ensure your child wears sunglasses that meet the Australian Standards.
Water and dehydration
1. NSW Health (2013) Heat-Related Illness including Heat Stroke. Sydney: NSW Health. Accessed 23/02/2016 from: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/heat-related-illness.aspx
2. Cancer Council Australia. (2010) Skin cancer facts and figures. Sydney: Cancer Council Australia. Accessed 22/10/2010 from: http://www.cancer.org.au/cancersmartlifestyle/SunSmart/Skincancerfactsandfigures.htm
3. Cancer Council Australia (2016) Skin cancer. Sydney: Cancer Council Australia; 2010. Accessed 23/02/2016 from: http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html 4. Kidsafe Australia (n.d.) The unconventional oven. Accessed 23/02/2016 from: http://theunconventionaloven.com.au/
4. Cancer Council Australia. (2010) Preventing skin cancer. Sydney: Cancer Council Australia. Accessed 22/10/2010 from: http://www.cancer.org.au/cancersmartlifestyle/SunSmart/Preventingskincancer.htm
5. Cancer Council NSW (2013) Protecting your eyes from the sun. Sydney: Cancer Council NSW. Accessed 22/02/2016 from: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Protecting-your-eyes-from-the-sun-August-2013.pdf
6. Cancer Council NSW. (2015) Sunscreen information sheet. Sydney: Cancer Council NSW. Accessed 22/02/2016 from: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Sunscreen-information-sheet_August-2015.pdf