Be safe in the sun
You’re the best role model for your child when it comes to tteachinghi hh her how tto bbe safef iin ththe sun
CHILDREN ARE EXPOSED to far more sunshine than most adults because of the time they spend playing outside.
Playtime and school breaks are likely to fall during the most dangerous part of the day’s UV radiation and many children remain outdoors without the protection of a hat or sunscreen. In addition, a child’s skin is thinner and more sensitive than an adult’s, thus allowing for more sun damage in a shorter time.
The World Health Organisation has warned that children are the most vulnerable to sun-induced skin damage and future sun-related skin cancers, but one of the best “insurance policies” you can offer your child is to equip him with sun safety awareness.
Avoid being in the sun when it’s highest overhead and therefore the strongest – normally from 10am to 2pm.
Teach your child the shadow test: when your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun is high in the sky and you need to get into the shade! Even on cloudy, cool, or overcast days, UV rays travel through the clouds and reflect off sand, water, and even concrete. Often, we are unaware that they’re developing sunburn on cooler, windy days because the temperature keeps skin feeling cool.
In sunny South Africa, it’s vital to practise correct sun exposure throughout the year.
Even in winter, when we think sun
protection isn’t necessary, our UV index is seldom under three.
The ageing UVA rays penetrate the earth’s atmosphere almost as much in winter as in summer. The UVB rays are mostly absorbed in winter, but they are also dangerous, causing sunburn, cataracts, and immune system damage and contributing to skin cancer.
The best protection is to shield the skin. So while we may have grown up running around in the sun wearing as little as possible, it’s a good idea to slip a shirt on over your child’s costume. Less UV radiation passes through tightly woven or knitted fabrics, and darker colours usually block out more UV radiation.
Make slathering sunscreen on your child from head to toe a daily habit. There should be a sun hat handy for every occasion. Put one in your child’s school bag, carry one in the nappy bag and keep one in the car so he’s never without it outdoors.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some medication increases the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. As a result, even children with skin that tans easily can develop sunburn in minutes when taking certain medication. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if the prescription (especially antibiotics) and over-thecounter medication your child is taking can increase sun sensitivity. The best protection is simply covering up or staying indoors.
Because babies have thinner, more sensitive skin and underdeveloped melanin, their skin burns more easily than that of older children.
“Babies under six months should not be exposed to the sun or sunscreen at all,” says Johannesburg-based dermatologist Dr Selwyn Schwartz.
“Babies have more skin for their body area, therefore they can absorb more into their systems, which is why we don’t recommend sunscreens due to their chemical composition. The ingredients can also irritate their sensitive skins.
“If your child does show signs of skin sensitivity, opt for a hypoallergenic variety. For tots older than six months, many parents prefer to use barrier or mineral sunscreens (which contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide), as these formulae sit on top of the skin and are not absorbed,” says Dr Schwartz. “But almost all leading brand sunscreens have been tested on kids and are Sabs-approved.”
Choose a minimum SPF15 sunscreen. Most children’s products contain a much higher SPF – some as high as 50. But the actual increased protection after SPF30 is minimal; the key is rather to apply it generously and often. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means it protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
FROM LEFT: Celltone Adult Sunscreen SPF30 R180, Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Spray 200ml R190, Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Roll-on 50ml R95, available at leading retailers