A Melbourne mum fighting melanoma is asking parents to lead a push to make sunscreen a part of a normal school day for their children, in a new appeal launched by SunSmart today.
While almost all Victorian primary students are sent to school in SunSmart hats and uniforms, most parents don’t equip children with sunscreen or encourage them to apply it before they go outside to play.
Melbourne’s Belinda Karlos wants to change that.
Belinda was diagnosed with melanoma in 2012. Since her diagnosis, she has undergone several treatments, including surgery, adoptive T-cell therapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. Unfortunately, the treatment has not been effective and the melanoma cells have spread throughout her body to her lymph nodes and organs.
As both a melanoma patient and a mum, Belinda is passionate about improving sunscreen use for children across the state.
Between September and April – when UV levels peak – Belinda sends her 10-year-old daughter Ebony to school with sunscreen and encourages her to slop it on each day before school and before going outside to play at lunchtime.
Belinda said parents could help support children to use sunscreen by including it in their school bags, contributing to a classroom supply of sunscreen and leading by example by applying sunscreen themselves.
“Schools are doing what they can to be SunSmart, but as parents, we can play a bigger role by teaching our kids why we wear sunscreen and how to apply it,” Belinda said.
“Teaching your kids the habit of slopping on sunscreen is as important as making sure they know to brush their teeth, wear a helmet while cycling or put on a seatbelt when they get in the car.
“The bottom line is that skin cancer is preventable. If I had have been SunSmart when I was young, perhaps I would not be in the position I am now.”
SunSmart Manager Sue Heward hopes Belinda’s story will resonate with parents and schools.
“We often hear that sunscreen is too messy, takes too much time or that people are worried about allergies. But with the right strategies in place, school communities can overcome these barriers and increase sun protection at their school,” Ms Heward said.
“I urge parents to listen to Belinda’s message and start the conversation about sunscreen with their children and school community.”
SunSmart’s top tips for getting children to use sunscreen at school
- Children’s choice: Always choose a sunscreen that is SPF30 or higher, broad-spectrum and water-resistant, but let children choose a formula they like, whether it’s a spray, roll-on or fragrance-free formula for sensitive skin.
- Keep it in view: A sunscreen that clips on to the school bag is a great visual reminder. Storing sunscreen in the lunchbox is also a great idea – especially when it’s stored with icy items to keep it cool.
- Buddy up: Talk to your child’s teacher about sunscreen strategies in the classroom. Can they use a buddy system so children can remind each other or assign a sunscreen monitor who can remind the class about applying sunscreen before going out to play?
- Model behaviours: An Australian study found children are 16 times more likely to use sunscreen if their parents do. Check the sun protection times each day to find out when you need sun protection and slip, slop, slap, seek and slide before you head outdoors during these times.
For more information on sunscreen, sun protection tips and resources, visit sunsmart.com.au