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Safety First for Children in the Sun

Over-exposure to untraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can causes sunburn, speeds up the aging process of your skin, and increases the risk of skin cancer.

Babies’ and children’s delicate skin is particularly sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Research indicates the risk of skin cancer in later life increases if you are sunburnt in childhood.

Take special care to ensure that children – especially babies and toddlers – are given the right protection when out in the sun.

Tips for Children in the Sun

Covering the skin with cool, loose clothing is one of the safest and least expensive ways of protecting children from the sun. Clothing made from tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton, offer good protection from the sun’s rays. Long sleeve t-shirts and hats which shade the face, neck and ears are best.

Babies should be kept out of the sun. Use sunshades on prams and never leave babies unattended outside as they are can’t move with the shade. Children should be encouraged to play in the shade particularly between 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are most intense.

UV radiation is reflected onto the skin from sand, water, concrete, and other light surfaces. Don’t be fooled by cool breezes or cloud cover, as up to 80% of the sun’s rays can penetrate through light cloud and mist. Plan walks or other activities to avoid the midday sun.

Older children and adults should wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from strong sunlight. Sunglasses should carry the British Standards label BS2724: 1987.

When neither protective clothing nor shade are practical, use a high factor sunscreen on all exposed skin. Sunscreens with a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of 15 or more are currently advised for adults.

Children should ideally use a total sun block or a sunscreen with a higher SPF which blocks out as much of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB ray’s as possible. Generously and frequently apply sunscreen (following instructions), particularly after being in the water or after towelling.

Do not use sunscreen to prolong the time children spend in the sun and remember that using a sunscreen does not guarantee you will not burn.

What to do in the Case of Sunburn

  • Take the child indoors and carefully cool the area with cool water or compresses.
  • Apply an after sun lotion or moisturising cream to the affected area.
  • Encourage the child to drink lots of fluids.
  • Ensure that the sunburn has healed before exposing the skin to the sun again.
  • Seek immediate medical advice if the child is very young, a large part of the body is sunburnt, if the skin is blistered and swollen, or if the child shows signs of heatstroke such as:
    • Hot, dry and red skin.
    • Vomiting or Nausea.
    • Raised temperature sustained over 100°F or 38°C.
    • Drowsiness or even confusion.
    • Dizziness or even unconsciousness.

Protection for the Future

Skin cancer can be caused by over exposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from the sun or sunbeds. The risk of skin cancer in later life may increase if you are sunburnt as child.

Remember: more protection taken at an early age will lower the likelihood of skin cancer in adulthood.

People of all ages should take special care

  • If you have very pale skin, fair or red hair.
  • If you have a lot of freckles or moles.
  • If you have had skin cancer before, or you have a family history of it.
  • If you spend a lot of time or work outdoors.

For today’s UV Index forcast, see the met office website .

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