Whatever the Irish weather, many families are looking forward to jetting off abroad to catch some rays. And good sun protection is a vital part of enjoying the sunshine, particularly for children. Sunscreen isn't the only way to protect them.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Ireland. According to the Irish Cancer Society, almost 12,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer every year. 

According to them Society "getting sunburnt in childhood or adolescence can increase the risk of melanoma--the most serious form of skin cancer--in later life". It can sometimes take 10 to 15 years for the cancer to develop and it is most common in ages between 15 and 44.  

Here are some safety tips to avoid the dangers of the sun:

1. Avoid the midday sun
The sun is strongest and its UV rays the most intense between 11am and 3pm, so the best way to protect children’s skin then is to avoid direct sunlight and seek shade. 

2. Cover kids up
Dressing children in loose-fitting clothing, a sun hat and sunglasses is one of the best ways to keep their skin safe. Many rash vests or guards provide protection against UV, as well as children’s hats and shades.

The level of UV protection these garments provide is indicated using a system called Unit Protection Factor (UPF),  and it takes into account the type, weave and colour of the fabric. Look for a UPF of 40 or above on clothing labels.

Skin specialist Sandra Gloss says that "sun cream should be put on the feet and the face, as a child should be covered up with clothing everywhere else". 

3.  Sunscreen expires
Like any skin creams, sunscreens do expire. Their efficacy lasts a certain time so check the expiry date when you find it in the  back of the cupboard. 

4. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin
If avoiding direct sun isn’t possible, cover all exposed areas of your child’s skin with sunscreen containing SPF 30 or above, which also has high UVA protection. But always remember, no sun screen is 100%.

Sandra recommends natural sun cream. She says "sun creams that contain minerals and butters such as shea butter work as a mechanical protection and contain antioxidants". 

5. Check easily missed areas
With squirmy children, it’s easy to miss patches when applying sunscreen. Don’t forget to check easy-to-miss areas such as the ears, the bottom of the feet and hands, scalp, back of the neck, lips and eyelids.

Children play and move around in a way that can expose areas of their body that an adult wouldn't expose so it's important to keep this in mind when applying sun cream. 

6. Reapply frequently 
Applying a second coat of sunscreen about 15 minutes after the first helps cover any patches missed initially. Make sure you reapply sunscreen every two hours, and straight after children have been in water.

7. Make it fun
To make sunscreen application more fun for young children, try drawing a picture or writing a word as you squeeze the sunscreen onto their skin, maybe one letter on each limb, torso etc. Then ask them to guess what the picture or word is, and tell them they can help rub it out (i.e. spread it onto their skin).

Alternatively, do a 'join the dots’ with the sunscreen, letting them spread the cream from one dot to the next.

Play makes everything a little easier for children and for the parents. Applying sunscreen can often be a struggle for both parent and child. This can be eliminated by making it into a game and making it fun. 

8. You can get sunburned in the shade
Good shade can give up to 75% protection from UV rays. 

Sandra warns that "a cloud isn't shade. The skin is still exposed to UV rays. Mechanical protection such as a hat, for example, is a good way to protect the skin".  

9. Lead by example
Children learn by example, so make sure they see you putting on sunscreen, say how nice it feels on your skin, and explain why you’re putting it on.

10. It’s not just burning that’s dangerous
Burning and tanning are both harmful to the skin. Sandra says that "staying in the sun for longer than 15 minutes is a danger to you health. Prolonged exposure to the sun damages your skin".