With so many of us having holidays at home this year, it is tempting to take advantage of any sunny spells that come along, but it is important to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of too much sun. This is especially true for children and young people.

With its SunSmart campaign, the HSE is reminding parents to protect children's skin during the summer holidays.

Playing and spending time outdoors is great for children. Protecting their skin from the sun when outside reduces their risk of skin cancer in later life.

Most people living in Ireland have fair skin, the type which burns easily and tans poorly, so are at high risk of UV damage and skin cancer. Exposure to UV radiation during childhood is particularly harmful so protecting skin during childhood is extremely important.

Know the UV index
When the UV index is three or above, you need to protect your skin. In Ireland, the UV index is usually three or above from April to September, even when it is cloudy. Stay safe by limiting time in the sun when UV is strongest, typically between the hours of 11am to 3pm.

You can check the UV index on the Met Éireann website, met.ie

Slip on clothing: Cover skin as much as possible, wear long sleeves, collared t-shirts; generally, clothes made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through.

Slop on broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children, with high UVA protection and that is water-resistant. Re-apply regularly. No sunscreen can provide 100% protection, so it should be used alongside other protective measures such as clothing and shade.

Slap on a wide-brimmed hat: Protect your face, ears and neck with a wide-brimmed hat.

Seek shade: Sit in the cover of trees to avoid direct sunlight. Use a sunshade on your buggy or pram. Keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.

Slide on sunglasses: Guard your eyes against harm by wearing sunglasses with UV protection.

Do not deliberately try to get a suntan. Avoid getting a sunburn. Never use a sunbed. For children up to one year old, it is best to keep them in the shade and wear clothing that covers their skin when outdoors.

It is better to protect babies up to six months old from sunlight by using shade and clothing rather than sunscreen. You may choose to use sunscreen sometimes on small parts of your baby’s skin. If you do, choose a sunscreen that is for babies such as sensitive or toddler sunscreen.

Children’s skin is very sensitive to UV from the sun. Sunburn during childhood increases the risk of getting skin cancer as an adult. If your child is badly sunburned more than three times before the age of 20, they more than double their risk of skin cancer as an adult.

Protect yourself and your children by being SunSmart as part of your daily routine from April to September.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Ireland, yet is largely preventable by protecting skin from ultraviolet radiation from the sun or artificial sources. Find out lots more about staying safe in the sun at hse.ie

Make a SunSmart kit
Have a bag at home near the door ready to protect you skin before you head out in the sun. Include the following items:

  • Clothing that covers your skin.
  • A wide-brimmed hat.
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children.