Sun Damage & Children


Because children do not understand that they should be cautious of the sun’s damaging rays and protect themselves, so that they can enjoy staying in the sun without painful sunburn. Children can suffer skin damage due to the sun’s harmful rays in a much shorter time than an adult, because their skin is much thinner and more sensitive than an adult’s, and it contains very few melanin which functions as a protective “umbrella” to the sun, so that it can effectively protect them. Particularly, babies up to 6 months old should not be exposed by no means in the sun, because their melanin cells are no mature yet, and consequently they cannot produce melanin even with the help of a sun cream. For this reason, babies even if they remain in the shade they can be burned by the sun very fast. Because of this, parents need to take precautions to protect their children from sun damage. It is very important that you do all you can to prevent any sunburn to your child’s skin. Children who suffer sunburns may develop skin cancer when they become adults.

All children need protection. Very young children that have light colour complexion and those that have red or blond hair need extra protection.  Overexposure to the sun at the children's age is a very important factor for the appearance of skin cancer at the adult life, more specifically with regard to the melanoma. According to Australian researches, it is calculated that the 50- 80% of damage from the sun happens before the age of 18.

We would like to stress – by ringing the bell of danger - that if we or our children have experienced up to six solar burns at our children's age, the danger to suffer from skin cancer (melanoma) later in our and their adult life is increased considerably.  So we should start from very early to have wise sun protection behaviour, which we should follow continuously, in order it to become a real healthy habit - as a routine, as wearing the safety belts in the car, or as washing our teeth! .  There are several precautions you should take in order to have an effective sun protection of the children like:

1. You should keep children indoors during the hottest part of the day. This is typically between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., but the times can vary depending on your climate and time of year. If they must be out during this time or any time during the day, take more precautions.
Keep in mind that you should use extra caution near water, snow and sand because they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase their chance of sunburn.

2. The clothes are a very important factor: Children should wear t-shirt of light colour, or even better sun protection clothes with high UV protection factor.  Also they should wear a hat that has coverage around the entire circumference of the head, or a hat that has enough excess material to cover the neck and ears, (legionnaire type), and sunglasses with UV protection to keep their eyes safe.

3.  Children under three years old should not be exposed by no means in the sun during the “dangerous” hours. Explain to the bigger children the dangers of sun overexposure, teach them to be conscious of the power of the sun and to spend some of their time playing in the shade, and reward them when they show responsible behaviour, like for example when they wear their sun protection clothes and sun glasses or when they get under the shade on their own.

4. You should never apply baby oil to your child’s skin as a sunblock. It will not protect your child and can actually enhance the sun’s damage. You should not apply sun cream to babies who are younger than six months old. Children that are this young should not be exposed to the sun’s harmful rays at all, because their melanocytes are not mature enough in order to produce melanin, even with the help of a sun cream. Their skin and their eyes can be irreparably damaged.  So, the use of sun protection clothes with high UPF (ultraviolet protector factor) is obligatory.

5. You need to use a minimum SPF 30 sun cream and apply it at least twenty minutes before your kid goes outside. Keep in mind that the higher the SPF number, the longer the protection. Don’t be fooled into thinking, however, that just because you use a larger number SPF on your child, won’t get sunburned. You will need to take other precautions in addition to a good sun cream.
6. Make sure that you select a sun cream that protects them from both UVB and UVA radiation, since UVA   radiation is also dangerous.
Actually, sun creams strengthen the physical defence of organism toward harmful sun’s rays. As a defence against UV radiation, our skin is stimulated to produce more amount of melanin and our skin gets a sun tan. However attention: The use of sun creams should not encourage us so that we stay more in the sun. Often as parents, we believe that our children are “sure” when we use for them a sun protector of “total protection”. This erroneous significance of safety has as a consequence the excessive exposure to the sun and the protective action of sun creams is eliminated.

Although many sunscreens state that they are waterproof, you will need to reapply the sunscreen after your child swims or engages in any physical activity. Rub in the sunscreen and instruct your child to wait a few minutes before returning to the water to other activities outside. In addition to the sunscreen, you will want to cover up as much exposed skin as possible. You can buy good, breathable cotton materials that will be comfortable and offer additional protection. Remember, the tighter the weave of the material, the more protection the cloth offers.

The best solution is to purchase sun suits that provide more protection for your child than a typical swimsuit will. Many pieces of clothing now carry a label that lists the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The higher the UPF number is, the greater the protection it offers. Their advantage is that the protection that they offer is not degraded when they get wet, and the sun protection that they offer is permanent, concerning that sun protection products like sun creams should be renewed every 2 hours.  Finally, yet today's modern fabrics—moisture-wicking, quick-drying, highly breathable, engineered for optimal ventilation—make them surprisingly efficient and comfortable to shield skin from UV light (UVA and UVB).

Once you have adequately covered your child’s body, don’t forget to protect her head and eyes. You will want to purchase a hat that has coverage around the entire circumference of the head. Baseball caps only protect that portion of the head that is under the bib. You want a hat that has enough excess material to cover the neck and ears, also. Even young children can wear sunglasses. Be sure you look for glasses that carry the UV protection symbol and/or the initials ANSI.

Of course, you don’t need to hide from the sun. Sunlight provides essential vitamins including vitamin D. You should use common sense and protect your children.