Here comes the sun!
It’s almost summer! It’s time to start playing in the backyard, taking trips to the beach and enjoying the summer sun. However, we all know the dangers associated with sun exposure and children’s skin is especially vulnerable to damaging UV radiation. Therefore, protecting your child’s skin is one of the most important things you can do.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation varies at different times of the year and different times of the day. Between about 9:00am and 4:00pm is the highest risk period and sun protection should always be worn at these times.
But other than the obvious sweltering hot days, when is sun protection really needed?
Sun protection for your child is crucial if the UV radiation level is 3 or above.
It’s important to note that sometimes, the level of UV radiation can be high even though it seems like a cloudy or overcast day. According to SunSmart, “UV cannot be seen or felt. It is not like the sun’s light which we see, or the sun’s warmth (infrared radiation) which we feel. Our senses cannot detect UV so it can be damaging without us knowing.”
The best way to ensure protection for children is to be sun smart whenever outdoors, regardless of how cloudy or warm it is outside. You can monitor UV levels for your local area using the SunSmart app or the Bureau of Meteorology UV and sun protection guide.
Here are 4 essentials for a safe day outside for both you and your child.
Create a safe environment
- Shade provides some protection from UV radiation. Look for shade that creates a dark shadow as this offers more protection.
- Make sure that areas you use regularly include plenty of shelters and trees providing as much shade as possible.
- Remember that you can be exposed to UV radiation even on a cloudy day.
- If you role-model correct sun safety precautions, your child is more likely to imitate you and do it too.
Wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses
- A wide-brimmed or bucket hat is the best protection for a child’s face, ears and neck. Caps offer less protection.
- Long pants and sleeves cover more skin. However, if it is too warm you can opt for elbow-length sleeves and knee-length shorts.
- Wearing sunglasses helps to protect the eyes. Sunglasses should meet Australian Standard AS/NZS, be close fitting and wrap around in order to provide the highest level of protection.
- Choose cotton clothing instead of acrylic on hot days as this will keep your child cooler.
The way you use sunscreen matters
- Use a sunscreen that is (SPF) 30 or higher, water resistant and broad-spectrum
- Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside
- Reapply sunscreen regularly; every 2 hours is recommended
- Store sunscreen in a cool, dark place that is under 30°C.
- Only use sunscreen that is within the use-by date
- Before use, test the sunscreen on a small area of your child’s skin to check for any skin reactions. Sunscreens for sensitive skin or ‘for babies’ are less likely to cause irritation.
- According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, children should be encouraged to apply their own sunscreen, under supervision. This develops a child’s responsibility and independence.
Provide good role-modelling
Children copy what their parents and educators do. If you take sun safety precautions yourself, your child is more likely to imitate you and do it too.
Think about your child’s protection when not in your care
Consider what happens when your child is not under your watchful gaze. Children who attend childcare or kindergarten are often there during peak UV times. According to SunSmart, children’s services can play a major role in the reduction of future skin cancer rates. That is why all of our kindgartens and childcare services at bestchance have a SunSmart policy and the vast majority also have a SunSmart membership.
When you are choosing the right kindergarten or childcare for your family:
- Make sure they have a SunSmart policy.
- Check that their outdoor areas include plenty of shade
- Check if the children are all wearing hats during outdoor play time. This indicates that a SunSmart policy not only exists but is enforced.
Protecting your child’s skin is crucial for their health, so implementing a strict routine of sun protection is the best way to protect your child for the long-term.