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Keeping your kids safe in the sun

We’ve been extremely lucky with the weather throughout lockdown, and it’s looking to heat up again next week. While you may be excited to be in shorts and a t-shirt again, it’s important to think about sun safety. We should all be aware of how important it is to have good sun hygiene – that is, being safe while out in direct sunlight, but also in the shade where it can still be extremely hot.

When we are exposed to the sun, our bodies create vitamin D, which helps us to absorb calcium for strong, healthy bones. However, it only takes a short time of being in the sun for our bodies to produce the necessary levels of vitamin D. Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays without protection can lead to skin damage and even skin cancer. That’s why it is so important to protect yourself and your kids from the sun. Check out the tips below on staying sun-safe.

A young black girl smiling in a bikini at the beach, her mum puts suncream on her nose

Apply suncream 30 minutes before going outside

Suncream takes time to reach its full effectiveness, so make sure you apply it a short while before you intend to be out in the sun. In strong sunlight, damage can be done to the skin very quickly so it’s important to prepare beforehand.

Apply and reapply

Regardless of skintone, it is recommended that all children wear sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. For fairer skin, a higher SPF would be better. You need to ensure that your sun cream protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and apply it regularly throughout the day or period of time that you are outdoors. The NHS also recommends using at least 4-star UVA protection.

If you are at the beach or pool, check whether your sun cream is water resistant. If not, you’ll need to reapply everytime your children go in and out of the water.

Check the label

Make sure you check the expiry date of your sun cream before applying it. Most sun creams have a shelf life of between two and three years, but if it’s expired it won’t have the same level of protection.

Another label you should be checking is any medication your child is taking. Some medicines affect the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays so it’s always best to read the label and check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure.

Cover up

A light cotton top, a cap/hat, a sun umbrella... whatever you prefer to use and your kids will tolerate (some kids think they’re too cool to wear hats), it will all help to keep the sun off their skin. In the UK, the sun is usually at its strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm during the summer, so it’s super important to make sure your kids are covered up during these hours. Having said that, even on cloudy or overcast days the sun’s UV rays can still reach the earth, so it may be worth thinking about applying sun cream whenever your child’s skin is on show.

Babies’ skin is thinner and has underdeveloped melanin, which makes it much easier for their skin to burn. It is essential that babies under six months old are kept out of the sun where possible.

Stay in the shade

While it’s important to enjoy the sunshine when it’s here (a rare thing in the UK!) and benefit from the vitamin D that our bodies create, it’s not just the sun that can cause problems. The air outside can become very humid when the sun is out, and shady spots will always be a few degrees cooler than being out in direct sunlight.

Heat exhaustion isn’t normally serious, but it can turn into heatstroke which needs to be classed as an emergency. The NHS lists a range of symptoms for heat exhaustion including headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, feeling sick, cramps and dehydration. Children may also go floppy and sleepy. Avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day is an easy way to avoid heat exhaustion. You can read more about this here.

Wear your shades

Whilst we’re all aware of what the sun can do to our skin, it’s also important to be aware that the sun can cause damage to your eyes. Exposure to sunlight can cause burned corneas (the clear outer membrane of the eye) and over time can also cause cataracts (clouding of the eye lens). Why not take your kids to the shop and let them pick out their own sunglasses? There are lots of funky designs nowadays – just make sure they have 100% UV protection.

If you need any more reasons to encourage your children to accept you putting suncream on them before they head outdoors, you can tell them that some horses also wear suncream! Those with white or pink noses are at risk of getting sunburn, so we have to apply cream to them during the summer. In Dave and Darcy Go to the Beach, Darcy’s mum covers her in suncream and puts some on Dave’s nose before he does a huge snort! I hope that helps in getting your kids to cooperate!

The NHS have lots of information about sunscreen and sun safety on their website, so be sure to read more into this subject there.

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