Staying Safe in the Sun
For many families playing in the Sun is great fun and also beneficial to our body. Exposure to sunlight helps us produce vitamin D which is necessary to absorb calcium and form healthy bones. But unprotected UV exposure can lead to immediate repercussions such as sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke, as well as chronic diseases such as skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in UK. We have listed a few key factors of keeping children safe in the Sun which have to be considered before taking them out.
Babies under 6 months
Babies under 6 months old should not be directly exposed to the Sun. Due to the sensitivity of babies skins, chemicals contained in sunscreen can penetrate their skins deeply. There is also a chance that babies will lick the sunscreen off their skin leading to stomach problems. One of the best ways for babies under 6 months to fight against UV (if sun exposure is unavoidable) is to stay in shade, or to dress in lightweight, loose-fitting clothes that cover their arms and legs. Use a hat, or even umbrella to provide shade.
Babies 6 months+
For those babies above 6 months old, it is recommended to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before they go outside. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher regardless of the child’s skin tone. It is also important to reapply sunscreen frequently, ideally every 2 hours. Apply sunscreen generously, and don’t forget areas such as ears, feet and the back of the neck which are often missed. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping out of the sun between 10am and 4pm as the UV rays are the strongest during this period. Use water resistant sunscreen if your child will be playing in water, but bear in mind that you still have to reapply it afterwards.
Dealing with sunburn
In case of sunburn, give your child a cool bath, which can ease their pain. Apply Aloe Vera gel or moisturising cream to the burnt skin and make sure your child drinks plenty of water to keep them from dehydrating. Stay out of the sun immediately to prevent further irritation. If symptoms persist, go to the doctor for medication and further treatment.
Avoid becoming dehydrated
Applying sunscreen isn’t the only thing you should be aware of when spending time in the Sun. Many hazards are caused by the heat rather than the Sun. One of the most common repercussions babies and young children experience is dehydration. Water is lost through sweating, and if children don’t drink enough fluid to compensate the fluid lost, dehydration will occur. Babies are most at risk as they have a lower body weight, so even a slight amount of fluid loss can have a significant impact. To prevent your child from dehydrating, remind them to drink plenty of water even if they don’t feel thirsty. Children are also vulnerable to heatstroke. Having (caffeine free) cold drinks or spraying water on the skin can help cool down your child, ensuring their body temperature is kept under 40.6°C.
You should also educate your child about sun safety. You could do this by letting your child apply sunscreen by themselves, check the UV index with them and regularly remind them to drink water.