Protecting children from the harmful effects of the sun is extremely important. Encouraging outdoor activity is a great way to ensure children get the exercise they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle; but regardless of the weather we need to practice smart sun sense when it comes to protecting your child when they are outside and being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The ABC’s of UV:
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are a form of invisible high-energy light produced by the sun or artificial tanning sources such as indoor tanning beds. There are three kinds of UV rays:
UV-A is the weakest form, but can still cause skin damage, including sunburn, and skin aging. It can also damage outdoor plastics and paint.
UV-B is much stronger than UV-A. It is the main cause of sunburns and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. UV-B also reduces the growth of plants and may affect the health of domestic animals and wildlife. The ozone layer absorbs much of the UV-B that enters our atmosphere, but not all of it. The UV Index measures the sun-burning portion of the UV-B rays that reach the Earth’s surface.
UV-C is extremely powerful. Fortunately, it is completely absorbed by the ozone layer and never reaches the Earth’s surface.
If we do not practice sun safety with our children, the possibility of them experiencing damage from the sun is possible. Not only can the sun burn a child’s skin fairly easily causing skin damage, it can also cause eye problems, and create long-term effects that could potentially develop into skin cancer in later years.
Helpful Hints to Stay Sun Safe!
For babies 6 months and older, apply sunscreen on skin not covered by clothes or a hat. Choose a sunscreen that is labelled SPF 30 or higher, “broad spectrum” (UVA/UVB protection) and “water resistant”. Do not forget the neck, nose, ears, back of legs and tops of feet. For babies under 6 months old, check with a health care provider before using sunscreen.
- Put on sunscreen 15-30 minutes before your child goes outside and reapply every 2 hour or more often especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect the top of your child’s head and create shade for the face.
- Wear sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection to help protect the eyes from the damaging effects of the sun
- Wear long sleeved, light-coloured shirts and long pants when possible. The less skin that is exposed to the sun the better.
- Lip balm with SPF?30 will prevent the lips from being burned.
- Check the UV index and avoid the sun during peak times (11a.m.- 3p.m.) when the sun is the strongest.
- Seek shade or make your own by using an umbrella or pop-up shade shelter. Keep babies out of direct sunlight.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of cool liquids (especially water) before you feel thirsty.
If your child is enrolled in daycare or a summer camp program; parents should be aware of the type of sun safety policy that is in place. This will ensure your child will be properly protected from the sun when they are out of your care.
Teaching children to be sun safe for all seasons is an important part of their growth and development. If children learn to protect themselves from the sun at an early age, they are more likely to continue to be aware and protect themselves from the harmful effects of UV rays as adolescents and adults. Remember, children learn best by example. Protect yourself and your family, by role modelling sun protective habits yourself.