How to keep your child safe from the sun this summer
After a difficult year of catastrophic bushfires and a deadly global pandemic, Sydney parents finally have good reasons to celebrate this month. The State and Federal governments have done a brilliant job managing the COVID-19 pandemic which means Sydneysiders now have more confidence in enjoying our gorgeous summer.
After months of lockdown and restrictions, we don’t blame you if you are eager to take the kids outdoors this summer but before you start packing up the car, take a few moments to plan how to keep your children safe from the harsh Aussie sun.
Why sun-protection is important for your child
Melanoma affects the cells of the outer skin. It is serious because it can spread from the skin to other parts of the body. Melanoma in children is rare but continued exposure to the sun can result in melanoma in adult life. The Cancer Society lists three risk factors associated with melanoma that parents need to be aware of. The first is exposure to UV rays. UV rays can be sunlight or artificial lights (for example, tanning beds). The risk is higher if your child is fair-skinned, has blue or green eyes, is a blonde or redhead, has moles on their bodies and a history of burning easily if exposed to the sun for long periods. The second is genetic. Conditions like giant melanocytic nevi, xeroderma pigmentosum, Werner syndrome, retinoblastoma and some immune system disorders can make a child more susceptible to sunburn. Finally, if there is a family history of cancer, parents should be extra-vigilant when their child is out in the sun.
UV rays and skin cancer
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. Too much harmful UV rays can also result in tanning, sunburn, ageing and eye damage. You can see and feel sunshine, but you cannot see or feel its UV rays. UV rays can reach your child directly via the sun or indirectly when the sun’s rays are reflected on surfaces (snow or water).
UV Index and sun protection
Sun protection is required for UV level 3 and higher. Below 3, sun protection for your child is not required unless he or she is outdoors for long periods or near reflective surfaces like snow or water.
The UV rays vary according to the times of the day and the location. To find out when sun protection is required for your kids, download the SunSmart app below:
How to protect your children from harmful UV rays
A multi-prong approach offers the best sun protection for your kids in summer. SunSmart Australia runs a fun sun-safety campaign that you can easily introduce to your children so they can learn to be responsible for their health and safety.
Slip on protective clothing
Clothing can protect you from sun exposure. Clothing is convenient and effective in shielding your child from harmful UV rays. The more skin you can cover (neck, long sleeves, pants) the better it is for your kid.
If your family likes participating in outdoor activities, you may want to consider investing in some special sun-protection clothing. Look for UPF on the labels of clothing. UPF or ultraviolet protection factor is used to measure the sun-protection effectiveness of fabrics. UPF protects both UVA and UVB protection. Choose a fabric with UPF 50 which can block 49/50(98%) of UV rays.
Slop on sunscreen
Sunscreen should be applied before your child goes outdoors. Sunscreen is effective to protect the parts of the body you cannot cover with clothing, for example, the face, arms, legs, neck, and ears. Without sunscreen, your skin needs only 10 minutes of exposure to burn. Sunscreens protect your skin by delaying the time it will take to be sunburn.
When buying sunscreen for your family, check the SPF rating. SPF is the standard used to measure the effectiveness of sunscreens. SPF provides only UVB protection unless otherwise stated. An SPF 15 rating can block up to 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 can block up to 98% of UVB rays.
Sunscreen has to be reapplied to be effective. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied every two hours so if you are planning to be out all day with the family, be sure to pack the sunscreen as well.
Slap on a hat
A hat is the second line of defence for sensitive parts of your head including the face, eyes, ears, nose, and neck.
We’ve done the research and have come up with some great tips to help you find the best sun safe hats for your kids this summer!
- Broad brim and tight-weave hats offer the best sun protection for your child
- Hats with UPF rating include broad brim, legionnaire and bucket hats
- Bucket hats should have a deep crown and an angled brim of at least 5 cm for children
- Legionnaire hats should have a flap to cover the neck
- Baseball caps do not offer much protection from the sun
- Wear a legionnaire or brim attachment under a bicycle helmet for maximum protection
How to get your baby or toddler to wear a hat
Some young children hate wearing hats. Here are some tips to teach your child to wear a hat:
- Lead by example. If you wear a hat, your child is likely to follow you
- Reinforce the importance of hat-wearing. Set some rules. For example, no hat, no playground
- Choose a fabric that can crumple easily on the baby’s head, so it is easy for him or her to put it on
- Choose a hat of the right size and brim for your child
- Choose a hat with a strap to make it easier to secure the hat to your child’s head
- Make hat-wearing fun by allowing your child to pick his or her favourite hat
Seek the shade
Between 10 am to 4 pm when the sun is at its most ferocious, try to seek out shade whenever possible. If you look hard enough when you are out, you will be able to find it. Shade can be a tree, a tall building, an umbrella, an awning, a patio, or a shady side of the street. The more you can get your kids to stay away from the sun the better it is for them to stay protected.
Here are some important things to know about shades:
- Babies have very sensitive skin and should be kept away from direct sunlight when they are out. When buying a pram, choose one that has a shade fabric of UPF 50
- Trees offer the best natural shade when you are outdoors. Look for trees with dense foliage with a dark, even patch when sheltering under a tree
- Shade moves as the sun moves so if you are using an umbrella by the pool, be sure to move it with the sun
- Take a sunshade with you when you are out picnicking. Put a spare beach umbrella or normal umbrella in the boot of your car so it is handy and readily available when you need it
- A light blanket or shade visor on the side of the car is a great way to protect the children on a long road trip
Slide on sunglasses
Sunglasses help protect the eyes. When buying sunglasses for children, prioritise sun safety over style. Babies and toddlers should have sunglasses with soft elastic to keep them in place. If your baby hates his or her sunglasses, you can still protect their eyes by making them wear a wide-brim hat.
What to look for when buying sunglasses for the children:
- Choose close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses for the best sun protection
- Look for sunglasses that meet Australian Standards (AS/NZ1067). You can find this information on the tag. Look for a category 2 or higher category for maximum protection
- Some brands have an additional rating: EPF (eye-protection factor). Choose rating 9 or 10 for the best protection
Keeping your child safe from the sun is important. We hope you’ve found this article useful. Please share with family and friends. Visit Top Kidz Academy