Every parent should encourage their children to spend time outside. Outside is very important to the health of children. Playing outdoors allow children to engage in physical activities, increases immunity and allows kids to get vitamin D, that is necessary to the overall health and happiness of your children.
However, being outside in the sun brings dangers that children are certainly not going to think about and therefore it is up to YOU to remember to protect your child from the dangers of UV rays. Sun safety is a very important factor is raising your kids.
The Dangers of the Sun
- You child can get sunburned even on cloudy days.
- On average, children get 3 times more exposure then adults.
- Concrete, sand, water and snow reflect 85%-90% of the sun’s UV rays. Therefore, your child will get more sunburned when around these reflective materials.
- Depletion of Earth’s ozone continues to increase your exposure to UV rays.
- Increase chance of getting skin caner
Facts about Skin Cancer
- In some parts of the world, Melenoma is increasing at rates faster than any other cancer.
- Melanoma is the deadliest from of skin cancer and it kills one person every hour!
- One blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer!
Factors in the UV radiation from the Sun
- Position of the Sun: the higher the sky in the sky, the higher the UV level. Midday is when the maximum levels occur.
- The time of year: summer is when UV levels peak in the United States
- Latitude: The closer to the equator, the higher the UV levels
- Cloud cover: When clouds are heavy, the UV is significantly reduced.
- Altitude: at higher altitude, the thinner atmosphere filters less UV radiation
What are the different types of UV rays released from the sun?
- UVA Rays: These rays can age skin cells and cause physical damage to their DNA. These rays are linked to long-term skin damage and wrinkles. This is the type of UV ray that is thought to cause skin cancer.
- UVB rays: These rays have slightly more energy then UVA rays. They can damage skill cells’ DNA directly and are thought to be the main reason for sunburns and thought to cause most skin cancers.
What Can We Do to Protect Our children?
Obviously, the most common way to protect children is to make sure that you are rubbing sunscreen on your child every two hours. However, some researchers are now arguing that chemical sunscreen isn’t actually the best for your child, because it can get into the blood stream and mess with your child’s hormone levels. Here are some negative facts about sunscreens.
- High SPF Levels: We all love having more SPF in our sunscreen, because it will give us better protection right? No, SPF actually refers to the amount of protection against UVB rays. It is nice to know that your child is being protected against getting burned; however, this does not give us any protection against UVA rays. Even with being diligent in applying sunscreen, you are still vulnerable to having aging skin and possible skin cancer.
- Sprays: Mom’s need to stop using sprays on their children. Sprays are much easier to apply on a child who won’t stand still and just wants to run into the water, but it is much more dangerous than sunscreen lotions. These sprays can pose a risk if inhaled and are actually way less effective. It is difficult to tell if you have applied enough and the spray tends to evaporate more quickly.
- Dangerous Chemicals: There are a few very dangerous chemicals in most sunscreens that can harm your child more than help. Retinyl Palmitate is an additive which can speed up the development of skin cancer. There is also Oxybenzone which can disrupt hormones.
Scientists believe that children should actually be using a zinc oxide and titanium dioxide based sunscreen. They physically block the UV light by staying on the skin and they block both UVA and UVB rays.
2. Cover with Clothing:
A popular, and extremely effective, method of stopping children from getting injured by the sun is to make sure that your children are wearing light clothing while out under the son. Consider having your children wear swimming shirts while playing in an outdoor pool and wear light long sleeve shirts while playing outside. This is especially important for children who aren’t allowed to wear sunscreen yet (younger than six months). Put hats on children to protect scalp and face.
The eyes can also be damaged if in the sun. Children are encouraged to wear sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB. Parents don’t often think about having their children wear sunglasses, but it is actually a very important factor in sun safety.
4. Drink TONS of water:
While your kids are having fun they might be just “too busy” to think about drinking water! However, water is extremely important and is especially important when children are in hot weather.
Tips to Keeping Kids Hydrated
- Start hydrating right away! Make sure they are drinking plenty of water before they even go out into the sun. It is much easier to make sure that your children are drinking plenty of water before they get dehydrated. Getting out of a state of dehydration is much more difficult then avoiding dehydration all together
- Schedule regular beverage breaks and keep a water bottle handy so they can take frequent sips. Encourage your kids to come over or come back inside to take sips. Tell them that they can go right back to playing once they are done drinking.
- You can choose electrolytes
- Drink water at the end of playing outside
- Snack on fresh fruits like berries, watermelon, peaches and nectarines.
We need to always make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our children from the effects of the sun. You certainly don’t want to be afraid of the sun, because you want to encourage your children to spend a lot of time outdoors. Although, you should practice caution when out under the sun, especially near reflective surfaces and while the sun is at it’s peak (around noon). If you do plan on taking children outside, you may want to plan your day around the most dangerous (and hottest) times of the day.