I read that a bad sunburn in childhood can cause skin cancer later in life. How can I prevent my child from getting burned and still enjoy the summer?
Dr. Peter M. vignjevic, a dermatologist in hamilton, Ont., responds:
It’s true that sun damage prior to age 14 is a significant risk factor for developing skin cancer. Here’s how to avoid a sunburn:
- Avoid exposure when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Plan your outdoor activities for the early morning, or late afternoon/early evening.
- Try to stay in the shade if possible, but remember to wear a sunscreen as it is possible to burn even if you are in the shade.
- Be extra careful if you are boating or at the beach, as water can reflect UV rays.
- Cover up as much as possible with long sleeves, pants and a hat with a broad brim, not just a baseball cap, which doesn’t protect the ears or the back of the neck. Wear a T-shirt when swimming.
- For areas that cannot be covered, use a good quality sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more, something that provides UVA and UVB protection and is waterproof. Waterproof, by definition, means that the sunscreen lasts one hour in water, so reapply sunscreen hourly if you are swimming, sweating heavily or after toweling off.
- Involve your children in their sun protection and make a game out of applying sunscreen. Try to make the experience fun.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2014.