Most families long for the summer when they can spend days out in the garden, on the beach, at the local park or even on holiday. Children love to run about and play and we all love to feel the warmth from the sun. However, it is essential that you ensure you protect yourself and your child from the harmful effects of the sun.
The sun sends out invisible rays of ultraviolet (UV) and it is these rays that cause sun-burning and skin damage. The sun actually has three different types of ultraviolet rays and these are known as UVA, UVB and UVC.
UVA rays pass straight through the ozone layer from the sun and therefore our skin is exposed to a great deal of its rays. UVA rays cause our skin to age prematurely and cause wrinkling. It is also the main contribution to skin cancer, including melanoma.
Some of the UVB rays from the sun get trapped by the ozone layer but enough UVB still gets through to cause damage to our skin. UVB rays cause sunburn and can damage your immune system. UVB rays can also cause skin cancer.
At the moment UVC rays are completely blocked by the ozone layer and therefore do not affect us.
When to start sun-care?
Establishing a good sun care routine with your baby will help your child to learn to look after their own skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays as they grow. Although you may not want to rub sun cream into your new born you can ensure that they are kept in the shade and are well hydrated in the hotter weather.
Babies and young children are at more risk from the sun as their skin is so fragile and delicate and therefore it is your responsibility to keep them safe.
- Avoid the sun completely during the hottest part of the day: The sun is at its highest between 11am and 3pm and it is at this time that it is the strongest. Between these times, you should keep your child out of any direct sunlight by finding a shady spot to play. You may need to purchase a sun parasol to attach to your pram or pushchair if you are going to be out during the day.
- Ensure your child is well covered: Your child should wear a wide brimmed hat in the sun to help protect her face, neck and ears. You may need to strap the hat on under your baby’s neck or you may need to learn how to distract your child from realising that you are putting the hat on.
- You should buy loose fitting clothes made from a natural material such as cotton and ensure their shoulders are well covered. If your child is going to be out in the sun, you could buy a sun protection, water play outfit for your child to wear.
- Use sun cream on all skin that is exposed to the sun. There are many makes and types of sun cream available but they will all have a SPF, this means Sun Protection Factor and refers to the approximate length of time that you will be able to stay in the sun without burning. Many experts say that a child should always wear a minimum of SPF 30. You should apply sun cream thirty minutes before going out into the sun and you should reapply every 2-3 hours and always after being in the water. You should ensure that you apply the cream generously all over the skin and try not to forget an area, especially the tops of feet, ears, lips and hands.
- Wear sun glasses to protect your child’s eyes. These can be hard to get your child to wear so consider a pair of wrap around glasses or ones with elastic or neoprene to go round the head. The sunglasses should meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and also carry the CE mark which should be on the label before purchase.
If you have any questions about staying safe in the sun you should speak to your Health Visitor.