The sun is shining, the weather is warming up and your kids are almost out of school for the summer. Have you thought about how you’re going to protect them from the sun?
According to skincancer.org, every year more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancers are diagnosed in the United States. Over 90 percent of these cases are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Of course you want your kids playing outside and getting their exercise, but even just half an hour or so outdoors can leave them at risk of getting a sunburn that could later lead to melanoma or other skin cancers.
Following these simple steps can help you protect your skin, and your children’s skin, this summer while still enjoying your time outside:
1. Choose Your Hours in the Sun
There are certain times of the day when the sun is at its strongest. Typically, that’s between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. If you’re outside at that time, seek shade wherever you can—such as, under a pavilion roof or a big tree. If you’re out on the beach, bring an umbrella with you. You could even try the beach at sunset. That would be a beautiful sight for you and your kids.
Taking part in outside activities in the early morning or late afternoon may also be more fun for the whole family and better for your skin. Without the direct sunlight, you’ll have more energy to play longer instead of burning out in the heat after a short time.
2. Wear Your Sunscreen Every Day
Every day? Yes. Although it may seem a bit extreme, sun exposure (any amount of it) accumulates over time and can cause skin cancer later in life. While sunscreens can’t protect you completely, they still offer you a great deal of protection. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that includes SPF of at least 15.
Also, make sure you’re using sunscreen effectively.
3. Wear Protective Clothes
In the summertime, most people don’t think about how their clothes protect them from the sun, but clothes that cover your arms and legs can offer some protection from UV rays.
Don’t forget about sunglasses! Your eyes can sunburn too. Those with lighter eyes (blue or green) are more susceptible to this than others. You’ll want to make sure you wear sunglasses any time you are out in the sun. Look for sunglasses that offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Need help choosing what to wear? Find out what clothes can offer protection while also keeping you cool.
4. Don’t Get Burned
While most people don’t take sunburns too seriously—it typically just tans the next day for most people—a single sunburn could increase your risk of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. To reduce this risk, make sure you and your kids are not spending long periods of time in the sun. If you are, make sure you are taking the proper precautions—wearing sunscreen and clothing that covers—and that you take cover when you feel your skin begin to redden.
If you have infants, make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight so they don’t get a sunburn. Their skin has little melanin, which gives your skin, hair and eyes more sun protection. Therefore, babies are more susceptible to harmful effects from the sun. You can help protect them by dressing them in clothes that cover most of their skin when they go outside, giving them a hat to protect their face and applying sunscreen to any area of skin still showing.
5. Avoid the Tanning Booths
Late winter and spring are a tanning salon’s busiest time. Teenagers are trying to get tan for spring formals and proms and everyone else is trying to get tan for swimsuit season.
Unfortunately, those who frequent tanning salons are much more likely to develop skin cancer than those who don’t. While it may seem safer to tan indoors than outdoors, the tanning beds can do just as much, if not more, harm than tanning outside. Skip the tanning bed this year and accept your skin for the color it is. There will be plenty of people who are doing just that.
6. Examine Yourself for Signs of Skin Cancer
About once a month, examine yourself and your children for signs of skin cancer by following these steps:
- Start with your head and face. Use a blow dryer to check the top of your head.
- Examine your hands (even fingernails), elbows, arms, underarms, torso and trunk.
- Check your back, the back of your neck and other places that are hard to see. They aren’t immune to sun exposure either.
- Sit down and check your legs and feet. You’ll want to pay close attention to the soles of your feet, heels, toes and nails. Check your private areas as well.
If you see skin changes of any kind, it could be a warning sign of skin cancer. Some of these changes include:
- Spots or sores that continue to itch, crust, scab, hurt or bleed
- Open sores that do not heal within two weeks
- Skin growth, moles, beauty marks or brown spots that change in color or appearance; change in texture; increase in size or thickness; are asymmetrical; are irregular in outline or border; are bigger than 6mm or appear after age 21
You can find more information about the different types of skin cancer and their signs at cancer.org. Also, make sure you talk to a dermatologist if you notice any changes on your skin.
7. See Your Physician Every Year for a Skin Cancer Exam
As well as you think you can check for these signs of skin cancer, your doctor can do it better. Make sure you are checking yourself monthly for signs of skin cancer and seeing your doctor every year for a skin cancer exam. If you or your doctor see anything suspicious, see a dermatologist as soon as possible. They have been specifically trained to understand and know about the changes on your skin. If detected early, a dermatologist will be able to take care of any suspicious areas so they don’t turn into melanoma later. You’ll also want to talk to your child’s doctor to make sure he/she is examining your child for signs of skin cancer too.
How do your protect your skin from the sun in the summertime?