The sun should not be feared but, like anything that can cause us harm, should be respected. It is a great big ball of hot gases at the centre of our solar system, without it there would be no life and the planets would simply float away into outer space.
Sun exposure is our primary source of vitamin D so it is important that we all have a safe amount of sun exposure – vitamin D helps us to better absorb calcium which in turn makes for stronger bones. It doesn’t take too much time at all to get the required amount of sun exposure, about 10 to 15 minutes for most people but always less than the time it takes you to start going red, however, too much unprotected sun exposure can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression and of course skin cancer; you need to protect yourself and you need to protect your children.
How to keep kids safe in the sun
- Avoid the hottest period – The suns rays are at their hottest between the hours of 11am and 3pm. Ideally, you should keep children out of the sun during these hours.
- Keep young baby’s out of the sun completely – Infants should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether, sun screen does not protect infants from the suns harmful rays.
- Find some shade, or make some shade – If you are out for the whole day, try to find a good spot of shade (under a tree etc) but also be prepared for these good spots to be taken and have a pop up UV tent or a good sized parasol with you to create your own shade.
- Don’t seek shade too late – If you and your kids are in the shade, you will not get sun burnt. Do not wait until your children are looking red before you insist on them playing in the shade.
- Cover your kids up – Clothing that covers your kids skin will help protect against UV rays, UV swimsuits are great, as are shorts that cover knees and t shirts (rather than straps).
- Make sure your children wear hats – Ideally you want a hat that protects not only your kids scalp but also his neck, ears and face.
- Sunglasses – Too much exposure to uv rays can lead to cataracts later in life. Do your best to get your child to wear sunglasses and make sure they offer as close to 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays – wrap around glasses offer the best protection.
- Never forget the sunscreen – Use SPF 50 sunscreen with a minimum rating of 4 stars. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside and be sure to re-apply every couple of hours, even more so if your kids have been playing in water.
- Don’t rely on one protection method – Try to incorporate as many of the above points as possible – a child in the shade, wearing sunscreen, sensible clothing and a hat is very well protected. Enjoy the sun but respect it, do as much as you can to protect your kids from the suns harmful rays.
How to apply sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before going outside
- Be liberal and do not rub it in too harshly, remember it is there to form a barrier, not to be absorbed.
- Ensure you have applied it to your childs neck, shoulders, ears, nose, lips, behind the knees and tops and bottoms of feet (if exposed).
- Reapply every 2 hours or so
- Reapply more often if your child has become sweaty, has used a towel or has been playing in water.
- Short daily periods of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months (April to October) are enough for most people to make enough vitamin D. Evidence suggests that the most effective time of day for vitamin D production is between 11am and 3pm. If your child is outside without sunscreen, ensure it is for no longer than around 10-15 minutes.
6 Facts about sun safety
- Protecting your children from the sun not only prevents sunburn, it massively reduces the risk of skin cancer later in life.
- The use of sunscreen does not result in an increased time of safe sun exposure.
- Some sunscreens come off when your child’s skin has been in contact with water, is sweating or has used a towel.
- Even when it is cloudy, up to 50 percent of the suns harmful ultraviolet rays can still reach us.
- 50% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs in childhood.
- A slight breeze or kids playing in water can cool the surface temperature of your childs skin so you may not notice that they are burning until it is too late.
What if my child gets sunburnt?
If your baby has been sunburnt you will need to consult a doctor as soon as you can, if your child has been sunburnt you should see your doctor if it looks very red, is particularly painful or if it blisters and/or a rash is present. If you are unsure about whether or not you need to see your doctor, you should at the very least go to your local pharmacy with your child and show them the sunburn. They may be able to recommend a soothing, aftersun lotion that is suitable for your childs age. If you are unable to get to the doctors or the pharmacy until the following day, you can cool the sunburnt area with tepid water (around 23-25 degrees celsius), this should be applied for 30 to 60 minutes but you need to ensure that your child doesn’t get too cold.
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