It’s commonly known that getting the right amount of vitamin D is good for anyone’s health, helping with calcium regulation and strengthening the immune system. Not only that, but most of us tend to feel happier and more energized after spending some time in the sun. This is particularly important for children, whose bones and teeth are still developing and can use all the calcium they can get.
Kids and sun damage
But the sun is a double-edged sword in the way that it can be just as harmful as it is helpful – if not more so. Melanoma and skin cancer are just a couple of the dangerous effects of improper sun care. You might think that children are more apt to healing from sun-related health issues, as the resilience of developing bones and joints is usually higher than those fully grown bodies that have been around a bit longer.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sun damage accumulates over an entire lifetime, and severely affected skin does not have the ability to bounce back like other parts of a person’s body. This fact, in combination with the idea that the vast majority of our sun exposure occurs before we are 18 years old, makes sun safety for kids an imperative priority in their overall health and development.
Children and sun protection
So, where to start when it comes to knowing the right amount of sun is good for your child, and which precautions are necessary without inhibiting the fun of their time outside?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives us a few basic tips. These can be broadly broken into products to use and behaviors to follow.
Sun protection products for kids
Sunscreen is the last defence for your child’s exposed skin. To get the most out of sunscreen on your child make sure they have it on whenever they’re in the sun.
You should be reapplying their sunscreen at least every 2 hours, and even more often if they’ve been working up a sweat or playing in the water. Remember vulnerable spots like their lips and ears that can often be forgotten even though they stick out in the sun.
Must have sunscreen features:
- SPF 30 or more (blocks 97%+ of UVB radiation)
- Broad spectrum protection (protects against both UVA and UVB radiation)
- Water resistant
Hats are the easiest way to protect the vulnerable head, neck, and face areas on your kids. As long as it’s on, you know it’s working.
If your child is still quite young, they might have thin hair that leaves their scalp exposed. It makes sense that this is a prime target for sun damage making hats very important for even the youngest children.
Must have hat features:
- Wide brim, bucket or legionnaire flap
- Must cover their face, head, ears and neck
- UPF 50 for the best protection
Children’s eyes, just like their skin, is vulnerable to the sun’s damaging radiation. Do them a favor by picking up some stylish shades that’ll complete their sun safe look.
You’ll want a pair that protect against both visible light and UV radiation. Both of which combine to irritate and degenerate eyes.
Must have sunglasses features:
- Close-fitting, wraparound design (to stop more light)
- UV 400 (blocks 99-100% of both UVA and UVB)
- Polarized to reduce glare
Getting your kids to wear more clothing allows you to know their skin is protected and means you don’t have to constantly reapply sunscreen to most of their bodies. Buy them a few UV protectant smart long-sleeve shirts and pants to save yourself time and them from sun damage.
Must have clothing features:
- Protects all of their arms and legs
- UPF 50 for the best protection
- Darker colours stop more light
Sun protection behavior for kids
Plan around the sun
Parents should be organising their kids’ schedule around UV intensity. When it’s at its worst (between 10am and 2pm) your kids should be indoors. The rest of the day is safe for play.
This helps to ensure young ones aren’t exposed to the worst of the sun for extended periods, saving their skin from potentially serious damage.
Whenever you can, you should seek out shade while your kids are outside. They’ll be protected from direct exposure but will still be exposed to reflected radiation (which means all of the stuff above can’t be ignored).
To guarantee you’ll find shade, always take some with you. Set up a tent at the beach, take an umbrella to the park, and set up some covered areas in the yard.
In conclusion, it’s important for your child to spend time out in the sun as it helps the development of bone structure and the immune system. It’s never too early to think about sun care for kids, as the effects of sun damage accumulate over years and do not go away.
Sunscreen is the most important preventative when caring for your child, and should be used in addition to methods like hats and umbrellas to create your own shade. The type of sunscreen you use is critical, as some brands only protect the skin from UVA and not UVB rays. Keeping all of this in mind should be enough to protect your child while allowing them to enjoy the benefits of being outside.
I hope this article was helpful, and as always, any kind of feedback is welcome and appreciated. Here comes the sun!