Melanoma Awareness, Preventative Tips, Wellbeing

10 ways to look after your kids' skin health this winter

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 30/06/20
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Winter’s usually the time of year we tend to rug up, eat comfort food and binge-watch our favourite shows. However, it’s also the time of winter colds, flu and sniffles – which children are especially susceptible to - so it’s important to look after your family’s health at this time of year, including the kids.

We’ve put together some handy tips to help keep your children healthy and well:

1.Wash, wash and wash again. We’ve all had this drummed into us during the months of Covid-19, but it still just as important now that other winter lurgies are on their way: encourage your kids to continue washing their hands regularly. Teach them to sneeze into their elbows if they don’t have a tissue, and of course, keep them home if they’re unwell.

2. Minimise those germs. Encourage your kids to take a reusable water bottle to school or kindy, instead of using the school water fountain – and if you haven’t already, ensure they have hand sanitiser in their school bags.

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Above: teaching children to wash their hands regularly can help prevent illnesses

3. Keep ‘em moving. Try to keep your kids physically active during the winter, whether it’s playing rugby, football, hockey or netball – or it’s a good time to take up an indoor sport, such as basketball, indoor soccer, swimming or volleyball.

4. Rug ‘em up. Dress kids appropriately for the cold weather – for younger kids, this means adding one extra layer than an adult would wear to be comfortable. If you live in or visit snowy regions, children should wear several layers of loose-fitting, light, tightly woven clothing under a thick, windproof jacket, plus mittens or gloves, a hat, scarf, and waterproof boots.

5. Tuck ‘em into bed earlier. Sleep is essential to a healthy immune system - it allows the body to heal and repair itself - so winter’s short days and longer nights are the ideal time for kids to get more zzzzzz’s. Not sure how much sleep your kids need? Here’s a quick reminder: Babies younger than 1 year require 12-18 hours per night, toddlers aged 1 to 3 years need 12-14 hours a night, preschoolers aged 3 to 5 require 11-13 hours a night, and 5 to 10-year olds need between 10 and 11 hours per night.

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Above: add some soup or fruit to your child's lunchbox

6. Sneak in some goodness. We all know kids can be super fussy eaters, but winter is the time they need nutritious food more than ever. Try to add extra veggies or fruit into meals (such as grated carrot, courgette etc) or cook up nourishing soups and casseroles with lots of legumes and veggies added. And if they’re up for it, send them to school with a thermos of delicious, healthy soup to warm them up at lunchtime.

7. Keep up the liquids. Kids probably aren’t keen on a cold glass of water during winter months, but staying hydrated helps fight infection and illness. Water carries nutrients to cells, plus it cleanses toxins from the body, so being dehydrated increases your child’s risk of getting sick. If they’re not big on water, milk, smoothies, watered down juices or soups can also help.

8. Update toothbrushes regularly. Believe it or not, one of the least hygienic surfaces in your house is your child’s toothbrush. Germs often hide in the bristles, leading to infections and illnesses – so buy your child a new toothbrush at the beginning of winter, and replace it if your child does get sick to avoid re-infection.

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Above: it's important to change your child's toothbrush regularly

9. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Although the sun's rays might not be as strong in winter as they are in the summer, they can still damage skin, especially when they reflect off snow, and UV damage all adds up over time. So encourage your kids to get into the habit of using sunscreen all year-round, especially on their face and any other exposed areas. They might grumble but their skin will thank you for it later!

10. Check children’s skin regularly. School holidays are a great time to check your kids’ skin for any new, changing or unusual moles or spots. It’s very rare for kids to get skin cancer such as melanoma (see below), but it’s not impossible – so it pays to be vigilant (here’s what to look for). And if you see anything that concerns you, ask your family GP to check it at your next visit – or you can always book a SpotChat, our free skin cancer advisory service. One of our trained Melanographers will have a look at the spot using our online Telehealth service, and advise whether it needs further checks.

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Above: even in winter, children should wear sunscreen on sunny days

Can children get skin cancer?

Yes, unfortunately, children can get skin cancer. It is very rare: in fact, it’s estimated that the incidence of melanoma is 1-3 per million in children under the age of 15, and 9 per million in those aged 15 – 19 years. [1,2]

Melanoma is most usually found on areas that are regularly exposed to the sun, like the face, scalp, ears, face, legs and arms. But that does not mean that’s the only place to check: it’s just as important to check moles in places not normally seen by the sun (like the back of the neck, back, buttocks, armpits, etc).

Because it’s so rare, melanoma is often extremely difficult to diagnose in children, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your child’s skin and get it checked by your GP if you notice anything unusual. And if you have teenage children, they probably won’t want you going anywhere near their body, so encourage them to do a self-check from time to time and teach them what to look for.

The risk factors for skin cancer in children

There are several factors that can affect your child’s skin cancer risk, including:

  • having fair skin that burns easily
  • having a lot of freckles and moles
  • being sunburnt frequently
  • having a suppressed immune system, and
  • having a family history of melanoma

Whatever your child’s skin type, it’s crucial that you teach them good SunSmart habits.

References: 1. Melanoma incidence rises for children and adolescents: An epidemiologic review of pediatric melanoma in the United States PMID: 24210187 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2013.06.002 2. Pediatric Melanoma: Risk Factor and Survival Analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Database PMID: 16034049 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.02.899

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