Living in Australia comes with many advantages. Coastal dreams, warm summer nights cooking up a storm and endless days at the beach soaking up the sun. It’s the perfect place to indulge in the summer dream – but it also has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
According to the Cancer Council, simple sun smart tips provide an effective way to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. And whilst a little sun feels great and it’s good for both children and adults to spend time outdoors, finding the best ways to do so safely is essential.
Starting early with healthy behaviour in the sun is the most effective strategy for minimising exposure to too much ultraviolet radiation. But even if you haven’t practiced smart tips in your younger days – it’s certainly never too late to start.
With an estimated 80% of lifetime sun exposure happening during childhood, protect your children by following these sun safe tips:
1. Stay Covered
Whilst it’s certainly nice to break free from clothing and enjoy the beach time in just your bathers, wearing the right protective clothing will help to ward off UV damage. If you’re planning a long day in the sun with your family, be prepared and take something to provide shade. Encourage everyone to cover up as much as possible, whether it be a light shirt when you’re not in the water or sunglasses and hat at all times when outdoors. Sun hats are the best way to protect your face and head from the sun’s damaging rays and won’t get in the way of having some beach fun despite the age. Babies under the age of 6 months should always be kept out of direct sunlight.
Whether it’s a day at the beach or an outdoor activity with the kids, if it’s going to be a long day of it you’ll want to bring a beach umbrella or small tent or gazebo to set up. This way the whole family can still enjoy a small dose of sun, whilst having a safe shady retreat to keep cool too.
2. Develop a Sunscreen Habit
There’s a general rule of thumb that sunscreen should be worn on a daily basis, despite how much sun is visible. During the summer season though regular application is vital for protection. Applying a generous amount of sunscreen should be as habitual as cleaning your teeth and ensure the whole family is in on the routine – setting the right example for your children is important.
Keep a tube of 30+ water resistant sunscreen in view by the door of your home you and your family use the most. This will encourage everyone to apply some before heading out and make sure you have a few spares in the car or bag to take out.
3. Know Your Sunscreen
Not just any sunscreen will do however; and it needs to be used correctly in order to protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer. Pay attention to the different sunscreens that are on the market. Like everything else, clever marketing techniques like fancy bottles that look better can throw you off buying the right sunscreen for protection. Look closely at the labels – you want one that says “broad-spectrum” to block out both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are notorious for prematurely ageing skin resulting in unwanted spots and wrinkles, and UVB rays leave the nasty sunburn.
The best sunscreens are the ones with the highest SPF – at least 30 is vital. Most people don’t use enough so don’t be afraid to go all out with it, just be weary around the sensitive areas like the face especially with babies. A generous amount should be applied to all exposed areas 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. Whilst water resistant sunscreens state they will protect applied areas for 4 hours, it’s highly recommended to keep applying every 2 hours or when you get out of the water and towel yourself down. For sensitive areas like the face, cheeks and noise choosing a sunscreen with a zinc oxide will provide good protection and stay visible even after being rubbed in. You can find some fun colours for the kids too, which will make that daily sunscreen habit more exciting for the whole family!
4. Wear UV Protective Swimsuits
Just because you’re swimming in the water, doesn’t mean the harmful rays can’t touch you. In fact, UV rays that bounce off the water tend to be more vicious. Wearing UV protective swimsuits will assist in a better shield against the sun because they are specifically designed to defend your skin.
Rash shirts should be worn over bathers for children and will help protect skin from becoming irritated by the sun, surf and sand. For those that are especially young, it’s a good idea to opt in a full body UV swimsuit or baby wetsuit with sun-resistant fabric to care for their super sensitive skin. Sun protective clothing like rashies are beneficial for everyone as they are quick drying, have no harsh chemicals, insulates the skin to stay cool and comfortable, doesn’t wash off like sunscreen and is chlorine resistant for extra durability.
5. Chlorine Resistant Fabric vs. Nylon / Lycra
Opting for chlorine resistant fabric as your protective swimwear as opposed to the normal nylon and Lycra will provide a much better safety sun barrier. Not only will it last for more than just the one season, but chlorine resistant swimwear is designed to withstand the harsh effects of sun and chlorine. Nylon and Lycra are notorious for losing their elasticity very easily and as that happens, the swim wear no longer acts as sun protection.
Many chlorine resistant swimwear brands have been endorsed by the Skin and Cancer Foundation and offer a cool, light and water retention comfort. Because the fabric is breathable and more durable than normal swimwear, it’s certainly a safer option for those summer beach days.
6. Keep Your Fluids Up
Staying hydrated is a crucial part of looking after your body in the summer heat. Hot days and running around outside or playing in the water can rapidly hydrate little bodies and water is one of the best things for keeping the body’s temperature stable.
Drinks (ideally water) should always be on hand to encourage the family to keep their fluids up. Whilst sports drinks and juices do quench your thirst, water won’t have all the added sugar and additives and is the best way to hydrate your body. If the young ones in particular struggle drinking lots of water, spice things up by adding some fresh lemon, mint or frozen berries. If you are spending a day out in the sun, it’s best to avoid alcohol too as this will speed up the hydration process.
7. Be UV Index-Savvy
Smart sun tips means getting savvy with the UV index ratings. You can get a UV index app on your smartphone which will offer real-time measures around Australia. Some will even offer information about how long it’ll take on that day for the sun to damage your skin. As a rough guide to get you started though:
Less than 3 (moderate): Sunburn can result after one hour of being exposed. Between 3 – 6 (high): Sunburn after approximately 30 minutes. Between 6-10 (very high): You will sunburn after approximately 10 minutes in the sun. Greatest than 10 (extreme): Sunburn will occur in less than 5 minutes.
With this information in mind, it’s important to pick outdoor times wisely based on the UV index and plan accordingly. Try to avoid longer periods in the sun between 10am – 3pm on the really hot days when the UV levels are at their most intense. If you can’t avoid being outdoors in this time, make sure you practice the sun smart tips.
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