Sun Safety

We can’t stress enough the importance of being extra careful with children in the sun.

The reason children are so susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun is the fact that their skin is thinner than adult’s and the younger they are, the thinner it is. A child’s skin can burn in as little as ten minutes. Research has shown that six episodes of serious sunburn before the age of 18, doubles the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

Keep babies under the age 6 months out of the sun altogether.

Cover children with cool clothing – cotton and linen are the best – and remember to change their clothes after playing in water, as wet clothing can lose up to half of its protection against the sun. Children’s swimwear has now improved and you can buy what look like mini wetsuits, with sleeves and legs. These are the complete cover up option with a ultra-violet protection factor (UPF) of 50+.

If you’re on holiday and the kids are in and out of the pool or the sea, remember that even if it says it is waterproof, sun cream can wash off and its effectiveness lessens during swimming, so remember to reapply it after the children have been swimming or playing with water in the garden.

Slapping on a hat is the best way to avoid sunstroke, which can be brought on when the head is overheated – even if the rest of your child is covered up with a t-shirt and sunscreen. Make it a wide brimmed one rather than a baseball cap style, as the brim protects the face and the back of the neck as well. For children, the type of legionnaire’s hat with the piece of cloth that covers the back of the neck is ideal.

We know the British summers can be pretty poor, but don’t forget that it is possible for children to get burnt by summer sun in Britain. Even when it is overcast, some 30% to 50% of solar UV radiation can still get through, and up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate a light cloud cover. So still put sun cream on your children even if it’s cloudy.

Whether abroad or in the UK keep in the shade between 11am and 3pm to avoid the sun at its strongest and in general keeping children in the shade and out of the sun whenever possible as this is the simplest way to protect them, but remember that shade can be lost as the sun moves so try to find somewhere that will allow you to move round with the sun.

Older children should remember the slip, slop, slap rule whenever they play outside in the summer – slip on a t-shirt, slop on a hat and slap on the cream.

A good pair of wraparound sunglasses will also protect eyes from the sun’s rays and the delicate skin round the eyes – but look for those that offer 100% UV protection.

For sunscreen to do its job, it must be applied correctly. Be sure to:

* Apply the highest factor available.
* Apply sunscreen whenever your child will be in the sun.
* Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before kids go outside so that a good layer of protection can form. Don’t forget about lips, hands, ears, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Lift up bathing suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath them (in case the straps shift as a child moves).
* Don’t try to stretch out a bottle of sunscreen; apply it generously.
* Reapply sunscreen often, approximately every 2 to 3 hours. Reapply after a child is sweating or swimming.
* Apply a waterproof sunscreen if kids will be around water or swimming. Water reflects and intensifies the sun’s rays, so kids need protection that lasts. Regardless of the waterproof label, be sure to reapply sunscreen when kids come out of the water.

For further information on sun safety, you can contact us through the Ask our Health Visitor page.

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