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

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

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.


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

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