A new survey has revealed that parents are woefully misinformed when it comes to the dangers UV poses to their children
Words Holly Kirkwood
New research released today by the Met Office in conjunction with the NHS England #CoverUpMate skin cancer campaign, has revealed worrying attitudes towards sun care amongst many parents in Britain.
The study – conducted amongst 1,000 parents with little ones under 11 – revealed that over 33% of parents asked believe suntans are a sign of good health, as opposed to a sign of skin damage.
Sunburn in childhood has been strongly linked to the development of skin cancer in later years, making it a vital time for parents to ensure their children are protected.
The survey also found that a quarter of the parents quizzed have encouraged their children to get a tan one way or another, with one in ten parents of children aged 2-7 admitting they have encouraged them to sunbathe. Even more strangely, 7% of parents with children aged 6-11 allowed their children to use a UV sunbed.
These stats may be shocking, but of course parents aren’t trying to damage their kids: in fact most of these actions stem from a lack of awareness about how harmful the sun can be, the authors have explained.
** 7% do not know that UV rays make you burn and have strong links to cancer
** 15% do not know you can still be exposed to UV rays on cool or cloudy days
** Nearly half of parents incorrectly think you can feel UV rays when the sun is strong (you cannot feel UV rays)
** Around a fifth of parents do not realise you are at most risk from UV rays between May and September
Many parents are also unlikely to know which days they need to give their children extra protection, it seems, considering just less than a fifth of parents check the UV forecast each day: 40% of respondents said they have never checked the UV forecast.
Clare Nasir, Met Office presenter and meteorologist, explained: “Protecting against skin cancer isn’t something parents should leave to chance.
“UV levels are usually highest between May and September. Clouds don’t always stop UV rays, and unlike the sun’s warmth, it’s difficult to know when they may be harming you. You can protect yourself and your family by checking the UV forecast on the Met Office app.”
Nigel Acheson, NHS England South Region Medical Director, added: “It’s important that parents take extra care to protect their babies and children. Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to UV could lead to skin cancer developing in later life.
“If the Met Office UV forecast is moderate or high, children aged under six months should spend time in the shade and out of direct sunlight – particularly from 11am to 3pm.
“We should all remember to cover up with suitable clothing and wear sunscreen with a good UV-A protection. If you’re unsure please visit the NHS Choices website for the latest sun safety advice.”
Top tips from the NHS for keeping children and babies safe in the sun:
** All children should play in the shade – between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest.
** Babies under six months need to be out of direct sunlight at its strongest
** Cover exposed parts of your child’s skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days. Use one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB. Don’t forget to apply it to their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks, and the tops of their feet. Reapply often throughout the day.
• Be especially careful to protect your child’s shoulders and the back of their neck when they’re playing – or cover with a hat with neck protection.
Cover your child up in loose cotton clothes, such as an oversized T-shirt with sleeves.
** Get your child to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck.
** Sunglasses should meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the “CE” mark – check the label.
** If your child is swimming, use a waterproof sunblock of factor 15 or above. Reapply after towelling.
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