There was a time when children who were tanned from hours of frolicking in the hot sun of a summer afternoon were considered healthy; children who were pale from too much time spent indoors were considered ‘sickly’. The sun rays, it was believed, were as wholesome as apple pie and as restorative as a week in the country.
To be certain your baby doesn’t suffer the consequences of too much sun, keep in mind the following sun-safety facts and sun-safety tips:
Sun- Safety Facts:
- Infants are particularly susceptible to sunburn because of their thin skin. A single episode of severe sunburn during infancy or childhood doubles the risk of the most deadly of skin cancers, malignant melanoma. Even seemingly innocent tanning without burning in the early years has been linked to basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the most common types of skin cancer, as well as to premature aging to the skin. The sun is believed responsible for at least 90 per cent of all skin cancers, most of which could have been prevented.
- There is no such thing as a safe tan, no matter how gradually acquired. Nor does a base tan protect the skin from further damage.
- Fair-skinned individuals with light eyes and hair are most susceptible, but no one is immune from the hazardous effects of the sun’s rays.
- The nose, lips and ears are the parts of the body most susceptible to sun damage.
- The sun’s intensity is greatest, this its rays most dangerous, between 10 AM and 3 PM (or11 AM and 4 PM daylight saving time).
- Fully 80 percent of the sun’s radiation penetrates cloud over, so protection is needed on cloudy days as well as on clear ones.
- Water and sand reflects the sun’s rays, increasing the risk of skin damage and the need for protection at the beach, swimming pool or lake.
- Wet skin allows more ultraviolet rays to penetrate than dry skin – so extra protection is needed in the water.
- Extreme heat, wind, high altitude and closeness to the equator also accentuate dangers of the sun’s rays, so take extra precautions under such conditions.
- Snow on the ground can reflect enough of the sun’s rays on a bright day to cause sunburn.
- Avoid exposing babies under six months to strong sunlight, particularly at the height of the sun’s intensity in summer or in climates that are warm year-round. Protect these young infants with a sunshade or parasol on pushchair or prams.
- Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours, more often during water play or if baby is sweating a lot. Carry sunscreen in your changing bag in case you need it unexpectedly.
- Initial protected exposures to the sun should be for no more than a few minutes and can gradually be increased, by a couple of minutes a day, up to twenty minutes.
- In the sun, all babies and children should wear light hats with brims to protect eyes and face, and shirts to protect the upper body, even when they’re in the water. Clothing should be of lightweight, tightly woven fabrics. Two thin layers may protect better than one, since the sun’s rays can pass through fabrics – but be wary of overdressing.
- Sun exposure damages the yes as well as the skin. Children who spend a lot of time in the sun should wear protective sunglasses that filter harmful rays. So once baby’s weight or none months old (especially if he or she is a regular at the playground), it’s time to bring out the shades. Look for those that are labeled ‘100% UV protection’ and meet European safety standards. Getting baby in the sunglasses habit early on will help with compliance later.
- During hot weather, try to schedule most outdoor activity for early morning or late afternoon. Keep children out of the midday sun whenever possible.
- If your child is taking any medication, be sure that it doesn’t cause increased sensitivity to sunlight before allowing sun exposure.
- Set a good example by protecting your own skin from the ravages of the sun’s rays, with a hat, sunscreen and shades.
Signs Of Sunburn
Many parents assume their babies are fine in the sun as long as there is no reddening of the skin. Unfortunately, they’re mistaken. You can’t see sunburn when it’s occurring, and when you do see it, it’s too late. It’s not until two to four hours following exposures that the skin becomes red, hot and inflamed, and the colour doesn’t peak at lobster red until ten to fourteen hours after exposure. A bad sunburn will also blister and will be accompanied by localized pain and, in the most severe cases, headache, nausea and chills. Redness usually starts to fade and symptoms diminish after forty-eight to seventy-two hours – at which point the skin, even in fairly mild cases, may start to peel. Occasionally, however, discomfort may continue for a week to ten days.