We all love for our children to be outdoors, after all, not only is it good fun but it’s also good for their well-being.
Sunshine is a top source of vitamin D, which ultimately helps their bodies absorb calcium for stronger and healthier bones.
But if your children are going outdoors, sun protection is essential!
Repeated and unprotected exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression and skin cancer.
Most children get much of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18, so it's important for us, as parents, to teach them how to have fun in the sun, safely. Taking the right precautions can greatly reduce your child's chance of developing skin cancer later in life.
The sunlight that reaches us is made up of two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB).
UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. Interestingly, UVA contributes much less towards sunburn but it does age the skin. For a long time it was thought that UVA could not cause any lasting damage. However, recent studies strongly suggest that it may also enhance the development of skin cancers. UVA rays are present during all daylight hours, throughout the winter months and all year round, thus we are exposed to large doses of UVA throughout our lifetime.
UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin. The intensity of UVB rays vary by season, location and time of day, with 10AM to 4PM being the peak hours.
What is sunburn?
Sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Getting sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
According to recent research the risk of contracting melanoma is most strongly linked to intermittent sun exposure - short, intense bursts of sun for people who generally spend most of their time indoors, for example sunbathers on holiday.
The best protection against over-exposure and UV radiation from the sun is a combination of staying in the shade, using UV protective clothing and applying suncream for the parts you can’t cover.
(Cancer Research UK)
Is applying sunscreen enough?
Research suggests that shade and clothing offer better protection from UV rays than sunscreen. However we always suggest that sunscreen should be applied to all exposed body parts that are not covered by sun protective clothing.
Sunscreen only works if you use enough. It should be applied evenly, thickly and regularly to be effective. Studies have shown that on average the actual amount applied is less than half the level SPF is tested at.
(Cancer Research UK)
What about my Vitamin D intake?
Exposure to UVB radiation is the most efficient way to boost our Vitamin D supply.
It doesn't take much time in the sun for most people to get the vitamin D they need and both environmental and personal factors greatly affect the production of Vitamin D in the skin - meaning there is no “one-size-fits-all”level of exposure.
However, research has consistently shown that Vitamin D can efficiently and sufficiently be produced at doses of UV below those which, cause reddening of the skin or sunburn.
Just 15 to 25 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day, without skin reddening or burning, should be sufficient for most people to produce the required Vitamin D levels.