Are you ready for summer?
Written by: Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, DCMF
If I had to write a list of my favourite things in life, summer would rank very high. My love for summer runs deep. It is a love that is rooted in amazing memories of family trips, time at the cottage, summer camp, special events in the city and many small happy moments. Even though I have been out of school for years, I still feel the thrill of the feeling of ‘school’s out for summer’ and look forward to some time off. And as a parent, there is nothing better than enjoying outdoor activities with my children.
In our house, we have been counting the days until the end of school and we can’t wait for the many summer adventures before us. We’ve decided this summer is going to be our best yet and we are making lists of all the things we want to see and do.
Top of mind for me is ensuring that our family is safe while outdoors. This is important because I know that exposure to the sun, especially in childhood, can increase your risk of developing melanoma. This fact is not to be taken lightly. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada and melanoma, the most serious and often fatal form of skin cancer, is increasing in incidence. (See Canadian Cancer Statistics)
I am more informed about the importance of protecting and checking your skin to reduce your risk of melanoma than most. I’m also more motivated than most to ensure that my family is protected while outdoors all year round. Still, there have been times this spring, due to distraction, forgetfulness or busy schedules, that my family has not been properly protected. This has been troubling and frustrating to me. It has made me think that if I, an informed and motivated person, cannot always successfully take the steps to protect my families’ skin, how can I, as Executive Director of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, expect or empower others to do the same? Something needs to change!
To figure out how my family can successfully prepare for outdoor fun in the warm months, I look to our strategies for getting ready in the winter. Although it is a pain, every day from November to March we manage to layer on all our winter gear (hats, scarves, mitts, jackets, snow pants, boots, sunscreen) every time we go out. Why is it that I can get the whole crew dressed in multiple layers for many winter months but am not always able to get them ready for safe outdoor play in the spring and summer? Surely, there are just as many distractions in the winter as there are in the spring and summer. With less gear in the spring and summer, shouldn’t it be easier? What are we doing right in the winter?
I realize that winter clothing/gear is always on because 1) there is no other choice (it is undeniably cold and unsafe to be unprotected) and 2) all our gear is easily accessible. In short, we have built winter outdoor wear/protection into our lives. To apply this formula to the spring and summer means that 1) sun protection needs to be mandatory (it is undeniably hot and unsafe to be unprotected) and 2) all our sun protection tools (hats, sunglasses, long clothing, sunscreen, shade) need to be easily accessible.
With this formula in hand, I’ve designed a FAMILY SUN PROTECTION PLAN for immediate implementation:
- HAVE A FAMILY DISCUSSION
Explain to all family members why sun protection is important and mandatory:
- Over exposure to the sun can increase your risk of melanoma
- One sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chances of developing melanoma
- Skin damage is permanent
Outline what we can do to protect our skin:
- protect your head with a hat
- protect your body with long clothing
- protect your eyes with sunglasses
- protect your uncovered skin with sunscreen SPF 30+ , shade and reduce your overall time in the sun, especially between 11am-4pm
- BUY/FIND ALL THE SUN PROTECTION TOOLS NEEDED
- Sun hats
- Swim shirts
- Long loose clothing
- Sunscreen with SPF 30+
- PLACE SUN PROTECTION TOOLS IN SEVERAL ACCESSIBLE SPOTS
- Hats in a basket by the shoes at the front door, in the car, in bags
- Sunglasses in a box at the front door, extra pair in the car
- Sunscreen at the front door, back door, in the car, in all bags
- Swim shirts with bathing suits
- Set up umbrella/make shade
- ESTABLISH ROUTINES
- Sunscreen on before you leave the house, reapply at lunch and mid afternoon and after a swim.
- Hat and shoes go on at the same time
- Follow the weather reports and take extra precautions when the UV Index is high
- LEAD BY EXAMPLE
- I want to protect my skin not only for the good of my own health but also that of my children. I realize that my kids are much more likely to follow through on our family sun protection plan if I embrace it wholeheartedly.
Protecting your skin is not complicated but it does take a commitment and some thoughtful preparation. Use my FAMILY SUN PROTECTION PLAN or design your own to ensure that 2014 is your best and safest summer yet!