Keeping kids safe in the sun

Now summer is here it is important to take special care with young children to keep them safe in the sun.

Sunburn can be painful for anyone, but children are just a bit more vulnerable and can burn quickly in the sun. Sunburn and over-exposure to damaging UV light can also lead to long term skin damage and a higher risk of skin cancer later in life.

A few minutes of gentle sunlight is good for growing children – it helps them produce vitamin D, which plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones and organs. Gentle sunlight is the light during the early morning and later afternoon through the summer months.

How to protect your child from sunburn:

 

· Make sure they always wear a hat when they’re outside. Choose a hat that keeps the sun off their face, neck and ears.

· Keep them protected with clothes that cover their arms, legs and body. Dress them in loose fitting, long-sleeved clothing or clothing/swimwear made from a fabric that has a special sun-protection factor (SPF).

· Restrict the amount of time they spend in direct sunlight. The hours between 10am and 4pm are the most dangerous.

· Encouraging children to play in the shade and keep the pram or stroller in the shade as much as possible. Use a UV protected sun shade or umbrella to cover prams and buggies – make sure it doesn’t get too hot inside.

Sunscreen:

 

· An SPF30+, broad spectrum sunscreen will give you and your child maximum protection. Your pharmacist can give advice about the best sunscreen.

· Apply sunscreen thinly to all parts of the body not covered by clothing – and bits that might become exposed as your child plays and moves around, for example the small of the back.

· Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours, especially after swimming. Follow the instructions on the container to reapply it.

· Test a small amount on the skin to avoid reactions and talk to your pharmacist if your child does show any signs of allergy.

· Sunscreens do have an expiry date, so check before using.

· Be cautious about using sunscreen on babies under one-year-old.

 

Remember that:

 

· It’s best to keep children out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

· The sun can burn by reflecting off water, sand and the inside of sun umbrellas.

· It’s possible to burn even on a cloudy day as the UV light can penetrate cloud cover.

· Babies should be kept in the shade at all times.

Children learn by watching: seeing you wearing a hat outside, covering up with suitable clothing and wearing sunscreen is setting them up with good habits for a sun-safe, fun safe life! 

For more information about being sun smart talk to your Plunket nurse. Call PlunketLine on 0800-933-922 or visit the Cancer Society website, cancernz.org.nz.