Protecting young children from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is important not only for avoiding immediate consequences like painful sunburns, but also for reducing the risk of skin cancer later in life. So how can you keep your children safe in the sun?
Slap on the Sunscreen
Lather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. Look for sunscreens specifically formulated for children, these are often less irritating to sensitive skin. Make sure you don’t miss any spots! Make it a morning ritual, just like brushing their teeth. And if you are out in the sun, make sure you reapply every two hours, or more frequently if your child is swimming or sweating.
Remember sunscreen is only one part of protecting your kids from the sun. Dress them in protective clothing (lightweight and long-sleeved) including rash vests or rashies for swimming to provide extra sun protection for while swimming. Sunglasses with UV protection can also help protect their eyes. Also, opt for a broad-brimmed hat for them, as it offers better protection for the face, neck, and ears compared to a cap.
Beware of High UV Levels
Australia experiences very high UV radiation levels, especially during the summer months. Keep an eye on the UV index in your area and plan accordingly. Higher numbers mean stronger sun. We find the SunSmart App really helpful for this! And remember, even on cloudy days, UV rays can sneak through so still use that sunscreen!
Whenever possible, stay in the shade. Use umbrellas or pop-up sun shelters at the beach or during outdoor activities.
During summer, aim to reduce your time outside between 10am-4pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Plan outdoor activities wisely and be especially careful with any water sports, as the sun's reflection off water can intensify UV exposure..
In the Australian heat, it's crucial to keep your child well-hydrated. So encourage your kiddos to sip on water throughout the day. (Bonus points for reusable water bottles).
Be Extra Cautious with Babies
Babies have delicate skin, and their skin is more sensitive to the sun and sunscreen is generally not recommended for use on babies under 6 months. So wherever possible, keep them out of direct sunlight and dress them in lightweight, long-sleeved clothing. If shade isn't available, use a pram with a sunshade or canopy. If you do need to use sunscreen make sure it is broad spectrum and at least SPF 50+. And remember, when introducing new products, always begin with a patch test to check for any reaction.
Lead by Example
As a parent or caregiver, teach your children about the importance of sun protection and set a good example by following sun safety practises yourself. Children are more likely to adopt these habits if they understand why it is important and if they see adults taking sun protection seriously.