Childhood is a vulnerable time when exposure to UV radiation is more likely to contribute to skin cancer in later life. Parents have the vital role to ensure their children adopt healthy sun protection habits during the early years.
Babies in particular suffer short and long term damage the most by sunburn, it can cause immediate pain, fever, and dehydration. Just one sunburn during childhood raises the risk of melanoma later in life. Keep your baby completely out of the sun as much as possible before 6 months of age.1
5 sun protection steps:
1) Know when to use sun protection
Daily sun protection times are released whenever UV levels are above 3. We can’t see or feel UV, and thus can’t rely on senses to let us know when we’re in danger. Ensure you check the sun protection times each day.2
Sun protection times are available from:
2. Slip on covering clothing
- Choose clothing and baby wraps made from cool, densely-woven fabric that isn’t too tight and still allows air flow.
- Tops with elbow-length sleeves, and if possible, collars and knee-length or longer style shorts and skirts are best.
- If a child is wearing a singlet top or dress, don’t forget to cover up with a t-shirt or shirt before outdoor play.
- Layering clothing can help create more UV protection.
- Darker colours generally offer more protection than lighter colours.
- Use rashies or t-shirts for outdoor swimming.3
2. Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
Always perform a patch test first whenever you begin using sunscreen on your infant to make sure your baby can tolerate the ingredients. Sunscreens that consist primarily of physical or mineral sunscreen agents, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are less likely to irritate babies’ skin than chemical sunscreens. Most sunscreens made for young children are mineral/physical formulations. If you would prefer to use chemical sunscreens and skip the micronized products, avoid sunscreens containing PABA or oxybenzone, which have been associated with skin reactions.4
For any exposed skin, apply SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen about 20 minutes bef
ore sun exposure and re-apply every two hours.
4. Wear a hat
A good sun protective hat shades the head, face, eyes, ears and neck. Bucket or wide-brimmed hats are the best.
- For babies, choose a fabric that will crumple easily for easy movement.
- For younger children choose a hat size that is proportional to the size of the child’s head so it doesn’t fall off.
- For older children, a bucket hat should have a deep crown and angled brim which is at least 6cm. A wide brimmed hat should have a brim that is at least 7.5cm. Often children don’t like to wear hats. Persistence is required to teach them that a hat is needed for outside. Children are more likely to wear their hat if their parents do.
5. Seek shade
Always keep babies under 12 months in the shade during the sun protection times. Even in the shade, UV can reflect from surfaces like sand, glass, brick and concrete, so always use a hat, clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses.