Schools and kindergartens are very aware of sun safety for children in their care. Read more about keeping your kids safe in our Sun Safety article.
Sun Safety is Important
Being SunSmart in New Zealand is crucial. The unique environment makes the population particularly vulnerable to damaging ultraviolet rays. There are clear skies and the closeness to the sun. Add to these the outdoor lifestyle of Kiwis and some very fair skins, and you have the following facts:
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in this country – almost 80% of new cancer cases in NZ are skin cancers.
- New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and together with Australia we have the highest melanoma rates.
- There are nearly 67,000 new skin cancers a year, including 2400 new cases of melanoma.
- There are over 300 deaths from skin cancer annually.
- Maori and Pacific Islanders represent a low percentage of the overall skin cancers diagnosed, however they are more likely to suffer from fast-growing and difficult to diagnose melanomas.
Sun Safety in Schools
Schools and Kindergartens in New Zealand are very aware of sun safety for children in their care. They should all follow the principles of ‘slip slop slap and wrap’ laid down by the government in Sun Smart programme and they require the cooperation of parents to achieve this. Your children will be at school during the most at-risk period of the day – 11am till 4pm, so it is vital that they are protected from the sun, particularly in terms 1 and 4.
Slip Slop Slap and Wrap
The Sun Smart campaign has 4 main elements for keeping your family safe from the sun:
Slip on a shirt
At school the children often have a uniform which will usually cover their shoulders and half of their legs. If the kids are not in a uniform then ensure they are wearing a T-shirt style which does not leave their shoulders exposed to the sun. Long shorts or skirts are also preferable to protect the sensitive skin on the thighs.
Slop on the sunscreen
Apply generously, using a high SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. The sunscreen should meet the New Zealand and Australia standard AS/NS2604. Cover all areas of skin that are likely to be exposed to the sun during the day. Buy big containers to keep at home (pump packs are great) , which work out cheaper and make applying sunscreen part of the morning routine, just like brushing teeth.
Roll-on sun screens are a great idea for school bags, so that the kids can top up the sun screen during the day, particularly if they have been swimming. They are easy to use and less messy.
Slap on a hat
All school uniforms should include a hat, with a wide brim. These are much more effective than caps as they protect the face and neck from the mid day sun.
If the choice of hat is up to you then a broad brimmed hat or bucket hat can be purchased from any big clothes store, pretty cheaply.
Wrap on some sunnies
Sun glasses are easily accessible for kids; they are cheap and colourful, but you need to ensure they have the AS1067 safety standard on them. It is unlikely that kids will wear these at school, but they can be encouraged to wear them at the beach particularly to protect their eyes from the glare of the sun off the sand and water.
Tips for enjoying the good weather
- Most importantly don’t forget to take plenty of water to drink, wherever you go – it is essential to prevent sunstroke, headaches and dehydration.
- Half fill your kids’ water bottles the night before and pop them in the freezer. Then fill to the top in the morning with tap water and the drink will stay cool all day, making it much more appetising! Always take much more water to the beach or on walks than you think you will need and just keep on sipping!
- Kids need good energy levels when it is hot – to keep those tempers sweet! Fruit and chopped veggies are also helpful as great snacks for active, hot kids.
- Ask your school what it does to ensure that the kids are Sun Smart and check out the shady areas where kids can eat and rest outdoors.
- In order to minimise exposure to Ultra Violet Radiation (UVR), try to schedule any outdoor activities after 4 p.m. during weekdays and before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. on weekends.
This is an excellent website sponsored by the Ministry of Health and designed to help keep Kiwi Families safe from the sun.
The Cancer Society provides the Sun Smart Schools’ website containing information on sun protection and skin cancer prevention in schools.
Did you know that your school can become accredited as being Sun Safe? Take at look at the above site to find out how. If your school hasn’t already done this, you might like to encourage them to do so.