Children adore spending time outdoors in summer, but keeping them safe from the sun can be a concern for parents.
Keeping children cool, getting them to wear a hat and preventing them from getting sunburn presents a challenge. Especially as children’s skin is more delicate than adults, it’s more susceptible to skin damage.
Being well prepared by dressing children in protective clothing and wearing broad protection sunscreen will help to keep them sun safe.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a type of energy produced by the sun. Too much UV exposure causes sunburn, premature ageing and eye damage, plus is a major cause of skin cancer.
A child’s skin is delicate, which is why it needs protection from the sun. This is especially important because you can’t see or feel the sun’s UV rays. You won’t notice skin damage until it is done.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength and is associated with skin ageing. While slightly less intense than UVB, UVA can penetrate skin more deeply. UVA is connected to broad protection sunscreen, which has been developed to protect skin against both UVB and UVA rays.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) penetrates and damages the outermost layers of the skin, causing sunburn, has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning. It is connected to the sun protection factor (SPF) on sunscreen products. UVB can damage your skin all year round, not just during summer months or between 10am and 3pm; the hottest part of the day.
The market is full of products, from hypo-allergenic varieties to protect sensitive skin from skin irritation, to water-resistant sunscreen.
Make sure that whatever you use on children has an SPF value of at least 30 (ideally 50) along with no less than four stars UVA protection/ultraviolet protection factor.
Protect your child by being sun-care savvy. Here are our top tips for parents:
Dress children in clothes that provide sun protection and reduce sun exposure.
A wide-brimmed hat will shade the face, ears and neck. Loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing such as a long-sleeved top or trousers made from close-weave fabrics will limit the amount of exposed skin. Cotton clothing will keep children cooler and more comfortable than synthetics.
Ranges of special sun-protective clothing are also available for children.
Make sure children are covered in a thorough layer of suncream at the start of the day. This should be applied to the entire body approximately 30 minutes before going outside.
The average adult will require a shot glass of suncream for a full-body application. Children will require roughly half of that.
If sunscreen is applied too thinly, the amount of protection it gives is reduced.
Ensure you’re using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and make sure it’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen (meaning it offers both UVA and UVB protection).
It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a stick, spray, lotion or cream – as long as it offers good sun protection it will be suitable for use.
For children with sensitive skin, carry out a skin patch test 24 hours before using it all over.
Some people apply suncream once and assume they’re protected from the sun’s rays all day. This is especially misleading when products claim to offer ‘all day’ protection or be water-resistant.
All types of suncream should be re-applied every two hours and more frequently after swimming, towelling-off or perspiring.
Forgetting to reapply sunscreen will increase your child’s risk of sun damage and, subsequently, skin cancer.
Staying out of the sun is the best protection against sun damage.
However, if your children want to play outdoors avoid direct sun in the middle of the day, between 10am and 3pm. During this time, the UV rays which cause sunburn are at their strongest.
Children aged under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight completely. Find shade and drink plenty of water to help them cool off in hot weather as children can easily suffer from heat exhaustion if exposed to the sun for too long.
We hear about the benefits of getting vitamin D, a source of which is the sun. However, spending time in the sun without sunscreen can cause sunburn and may contribute to the development of skin cancer.
There are other sources of vitamin D such as nutritious foods like salmon, yoghurt, cereal and eggs. Eat a balanced, healthy diet full of these vitamin D-rich foods or, alternatively, take a supplement.
Keeping sunglasses on young children can be a challenge, especially if they are in a paddling pool or engrossed in playtime.
However, a day outdoors without proper eye protection can cause damage to the surface of the eye. This is particularly bad if light is reflected from sand or water.
Protect your child’s eyes by stopping them from looking directly at the sun. Encourage children to wear sunglasses with wraparound lenses or wide arms. Seek out a pair which offers:
Water washes sunscreen off. Plus the cooling effects of being in water can make you think you’re not getting burned.
Even mild sunburn can occur quickly when children are playing in a paddling pool or swimming pool. This is heightened because water reflects UV rays, increasing sun exposure.
Using water-resistant sunscreen can help but this will still require repeated applications.
Reapply sunscreen straight after your child has been in the water and, if possible, encourage them to keep their sun hat on in the pool.
On cloudy or overcast days it’s easy to assume that you’re less susceptible to ultraviolet radiation.
While clouds do reduce some of the sun’s UV rays, they don’t block all of them. UVA can penetrate clouds and the rays reach your skin, so it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors.
Repeated exposure to the sun can cause skin problems, irritation and damage.
Children’s delicate skin can become more susceptible to skin cancer if they are exposed to too much sun.
If your child has mild sunburn, remove them from direct sunlight and seek shade. Make sure they drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
It can be soothing to apply aloe vera gel to the skin to keep it cool.
If they must return outdoors keep their skin covered with loose-fitting or sun protective clothing and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen.
At Premier Education we take sun safety very seriously.
All children attending our summer holiday camps will be required to arrive wearing sunscreen and to have a named bottle of suncream in their bag so they can keep it topped up throughout the day.
Parents – make sure there’s enough sunscreen in the bottle to last them the entire day or week!
To guarantee extra protection we suggest children come dressed appropriately for the weather. Wear a sun hat and loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.
And always pack a jumper or raincoat; you never know when the great British weather might throw us a curveball!