AS schoolchildren across Northern Ireland start their the summer holidays, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are reminding parents to ensure their youngsters are protected from skin damage that may result from sun exposure.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine with the PHA, said: “Being active outside during the summer is good for your health and we want families to enjoy being outdoors during periods of good weather.
“We do however need to be aware that the sun can cause permanent damage to your skin. One episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, doubles the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
“Everyone is at risk of sun damage, but certain groups such as young children are particularly at risk. We therefore ask that parents take simple measures to protect their children when outdoors during the summer.”
There are a number of simple steps that will protect your child against the sun’s harmful rays:
• Seek shade when the sun is at its strongest – generally 11am to 3.00pm.
• Cover up in the sun with a long sleeved t-shirt, sunglasses and a hat.
• Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 for UVB protection, and 4 star for UVA protection. Young children may require a much stronger SPF factor to protect their delicate skin. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-apply at least every two hours.
• Be sure to cover areas which are sometimes missed, such as the lips, ears, around the eyes, neck, scalp, backs of hands and tops of feet.
• Sunscreen is not an alternative to avoiding the sun or covering up – it should be used in addition. Sunscreens should not be used to allow your child to remain in the sun for longer – use them to provide your child with greater protection.
Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-ordinator with Cancer Focus NI, said: “It’s important to remember the ‘care in the sun’ messages at home and abroad.
“The damage caused by the sun can accumulate over time and may lead to skin cancer.
“So remember to to ensure that your children are protected from exposure to the sun this summer whether at home or away.”