Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Keeping kids safe in the sun (1)

As mums we are pushed in all directions. And told one thing and then another. From the moment we conceive, there seems to be conflicting advice about how we ought to be doing things for the best of our offspring.

Take exposure to sunlight for example. We are asked to send our children into school lathered in sun screen* as soon as the sunshine makes an appearance. Now I understand that teachers couldn't possibly be responsible for covering 30 plus children for outdoor play - by the time they were finished with the cream, break would be over.

But then we hear that the bone softening condition rickets is on the rise - due to a lack of vitamin D. And really this comes as no surprise when you consider vitamin D is found in very few foods**, but is made in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. 

With Easter holidays fast approaching, and families jetting off to warmer climes, beach breaks and the like, it is good to be reminded that sometimes, our bodies need a little bit of sun. But only a little!

All us parents paranoid at the prospect of sun burnt children and the staggering rate that melanomas and the ozone are growing, are advised to apply cream 20-30 minutes prior to going outdoors in the sunshine. Understandably. Too much sun causes painful sunburn and can significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer in later life.

Amazingly, 50% of total lifetime sunlight exposure occurs in childhood. This makes sense when I look back at my childhood in the sun - read here my post on sun and sensibility. I know that the moment the weather is good, my two girls are outside to play in the garden, although I always try to avoid the midday sun***. Both my daughters are fair skinned and blond, and burn easily. But all children burn easily, for they have such delicate skin. Infants must be kept out of the sun entirely. 

I try to encourage my two to play in the shade. When shade is hard to find, I make some by spreading a blanket over the rotary washing line. I'm also a massive fan of protective sun suits. Which is why I've written a review of the fabulous Rockley Cove UPF50+ beachwear for girls.

Anyway, the conflicting advice here appears to be that our children do need a little unprotected time in the sun; but I hasten to add, not too much. If their delicate skin begins to burn, then you will be putting your child at risk. 

* Sunscreen ought to have a sun protection factor of at least 30

** Vitamin D is found in oily fish
*** Midday sun is considered to be between 11am - 3pm, when the sun's rays are at their strongest


Anonymous said...

There are SPF lotion that offers immediate protection and you dont need to apply before going out. I am always applying lotion to my son when its hot too. You can never be too lax with these things at least for me. #pocolo

Emma Oliver said...

That's interesting, I always thought it had to soak in to the many layers of epidermis prior to sun exposure. Thank you for taking the time to comment. #pocolo

Siobhan @ Everyone Else is Normal said...

Yes, agree with you here, it has all got a bit over the top. One more fear to add to already anxious parents. As with all things, we should be vigilant and do what we can but not stress if we don't, o/w kids are going to grow up associating hot sunny days with anxious mums chasing after them with sun lotion. Not good. V interesting re 50% stat. BTW When we were in Oz last year, i was surprised to find SPF50 wasn'tt sold. The pharmacist told me that they don't sell SPF50 any more as it gives people a false sense of security and that there's hardly any diffce bet 30 and 50!

Emma Oliver said...

Hi Siobhan, thank you for commenting on this post. Interesting you were told that re the SPF in Oz. Frighteningly, I recall the burn factor in the Southern Hemisphere being less than 3 minutes in the year 2000!
You may be interested to know it is UPF that blocks the ultra violet rays in sunsuits - and before the UPF standards were in place, SPF ratings were used for clothing, but this has since been disregarded as a means of measuring a fabrics ability to block UV rays, since SPF is a rating that is used for skin applications, it measures how much longer a person's skin takes to redden when the application was applied. UPF ratings clearly rate a fabrics ability to block UV radiation. I'm tempted to use both, having given my girls a little time in the sun first! x

Judith Hurrell said...

Great post, refreshing to hear someone talk about the sun in a positive light. We are bombarded by SPF this and Sunprotection that these days. And I do think we can go overboard. Vitamin D is as important as sunprotection, but you hear so little about it. #pocolo

Victoria Welton said...

What a great post. There are so many negatives surrounding going out in the sun. Grace already takes Vitamin D but I do think that there is nothing as good as going outside to get it. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

Emma Oliver said...

Thanks for your supportive comment Judith, and for visiting LIFE AS IT IS via #pocolo

Emma Oliver said...

Thank you Vicky. Vit D supplements for children are a very good idea! x