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