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The Importance of Sun Safety for Children

The Importance of Sun Safety for Children

Written By: Jeremy Warhaftig, MD, Pediatrician

Brought to You By South Shore Health

We all know that the perfect way to spend a sunny summer day is with your family at the beach. However, it is important that we protect ourselves and our children from the potential dangers of spending the day in the sun.

As the parent of fair-skinned children, I understand the importance of enjoying the outdoors, but doing so wisely and safety.

Many of the chronic conditions that affect adults have their onset in the habits that are established in childhood. Melanoma and other skin cancers are no exception.

My passion for prevention brought me to the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation. I’ve been a proud board member since 2015, and I’m proud of the relationship South Shore Medical Center has built with the Foundation.

We have collaborated to provide young families with materials and information to keep their newborns safe from the sun, including providing sun-blocking clothes for our youngest patients, and we have also worked to distribute educational material to our patients.

Here are some common questions I hear from parents about kids and sun safety.

Why is the sun dangerous, especially to children?

The sun emits harmful UV rays which damages our skin cells, causing painful sunburns, which can lead to cancer.

According to a 2016 paper, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) during childhood is a major risk factor for skin cancer in adulthood. But the risk doesn’t come only later in life. That same paper found that melanoma is on the rise among American children.

Seventy-two percent of melanomas in children are found in girls between the ages of 15 to 19.

This is often due to the desire to be tan among high school girls.

Why is it important to teach my child about sun safety?

Many of the habits that we form in childhood follow us into adulthood. Just like teaching your child the value of brushing his or her teeth or eating healthy foods, if you teach your child the importance of sun protection at a young age, you are improving their health for life.

How can I protect my baby from the sun?

It is important to remember that babies can’t wear sunscreen and shouldn’t be exposed to the sun for the first six months of their life. To remember the best ways to protect a baby from the sun we use the acronym sun AWARE.

Sun Safety tips for infants via the Children's Melanoma Prevention Foundation

How can I protect my older children and myself from sun damage?

There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you are safe when you are spending time outdoors. To suit the skincare needs of both children and adults we modify the acronym sun AWARE.

Visit the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation website to download a great infographic about AWARE for older children and adults.

If you’re a patient of South Shore Medical Center, you’ve probably received this handout from your provider—but feel free to print it out again!

What are some of the signs of potential sun damage that I can look out for?

It is important to frequently check your and your children’s skin for changing moles after spending time in the sun.

You want to look for growths that are:

  • New or changing
  • Different or funny looking
  • Easily irritated
  • Bleeding or itchy
  • Persistent for more than three weeks

If you think that you are noticing any of these signs, ask your provider or dermatologist. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry.

How do I know which sunscreen to use?

If you are confused about what type of sunscreen would be best suited for your needs, check out our guide to choosing a sunscreen.

By teaching our children to enjoy the sun safely now, we set them up for a healthier adulthood. 

Learn more about Primary Care at South Shore Health

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