Elder Mother And adult daughter sitting on the beach in their beachwear enjoying the sun while applying sunscreen.

Your Kids and Sun Protection: Teach Them When They’re Young!

I was cleaning out my magazine basket this past weekend and was flipping through, deciding which ones I should get rid of and which ones I might actually read if I kept them. A picture on one of the magazine’s pages caught my eye. It was a travel magazine, and the photo was of an absolutely stunning pool at a hotel.

The article didn't leave me feeling good

Accompanying that photo was a short article. The author talked about how much he and his family have always loved hotel pools. He mentioned various pools that were his kids’ favorites, whether in the United States or abroad. I think it was supposed to be a feel-good article, but it left me feeling anything but good.

I had to wonder...

The reason for my uneasy feelings was that the author mentioned that one of the first things he and his family do when they arrive at their hotel is to head outside to the pool. As a skin cancer patient on a long journey (27 years and counting), my first thought was to wonder if they apply sunscreen.

They said they spend all day in the pool

Then he mentioned that on some vacations, they never left the hotel and spent most of their vacation in the pool. My mind again wondered about sun protection. Did they use sunscreen? Did they reapply it frequently? Did they have a pool umbrella where they could seek shade? Did they have any sun-protective clothing to wear when they’d had too much sun exposure?

You can sunburn in a pool too, you know

He went on to mention a pool in Italy where he and his family spent an entire summer day in the scorching sun, neck deep in the water to try to stay cool. Ugh. Did he realize you can get a sunburn on body parts that are in the water? And how burnt did their faces get after an entire day in the pool?

Longing for those days

He finished the article describing how, now that his kids are teenagers and no longer little kids, he misses the days of fishing them out of the pool after a full day of playing in the sun to wrap them in a towel and dry their sunburned skin.

I cringed

I couldn't help but to cringe. I know this was supposed to be a happy feel-good story, but all I could do is wonder how those kids are now, and how they are going to be twenty years from now. Years upon years upon years of sunburns and full days spent in the pool may have made for some great memories for the kids then, but they also may have been making for years upon years of skin cancer later in life.

This is a startling statistic

I was reminded of a statistic I’ve read numerous times from The Skin Cancer Foundation: having five or more sunburns doubles one’s risk of getting melanoma, and having just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma.

Skin damage is never good

And even if those kids are lucky enough to not get skin cancer, all that exposure to the sun could cause a lot of wrinkles, sunspots, and leathery skin as they get older.

Proper protection can lead to living without regrets

I hope the author’s kids don’t end up getting skin cancer later in life. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I’m sure they have great memories of their childhood vacations, and I hope their memories later on don’t include regret of all that time in the pool, not using sunscreen.

How would you talk to a child about proper sun protection methods?

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