SMART PARENTING IN THE SUN
With summer approaching, many parents are planning fun in the sun events, where children can get their dose of vitamin D. Parents usually bring along sun block with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30, because they care for their children’s safety. Seldom do they realize that it is not enough.
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers worldwide and the number of cases continues to rise. An increasingly cosmopolitan population is flocking to the beaches despite scientific evidence that radiation burns the skin and causes cancer. The depleted ozone layer no longer protects us as it did when our parents were growing up.
A moderate amount of sunshine is good for growing children who have a right to be outside in fresh air. By taking the right precautions, they can enjoy the sunshine without the risks.
Getting the Right Amount of Sunshine
Our bodies need an optimum amount of sunshine to produce Vitamin D. This helps them extract calcium and phosphorous from food and build healthy bones. We can also get Vitamin D from meat, eggs and oily fish. However, it is even healthier for kids to be outside playing in fresh air for short periods.
The optimum amount of time to expose them to sunshine depends on their complexion. While 10 to 15 minutes without sunscreen is sufficient for light-skinned people, those with dark complexions can tolerate 20 to 30 minutes. The best advice is to follow common sense. If your child’s skin feels hot when you touch it, goes red or becomes sensitive then you are over-doing things and you should cut back on time spent in the sun.
Modest exposure without burning skin builds melanin, the skin’s natural defense. Protect your children from over-exposure to sunlight especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is high up in the sky.
Remember that ultraviolet radiation is present even on cloudy days when you cannot see the sun. If in any doubt, apply sunscreen and protective clothing. Sunscreen should be at least 30 SPF, and clothing should be tightly woven, long sleeved and not see-through. If you can see through the clothing, then the rays can go through it. Nowadays many stores offer clothing and swimwear that is 50 SPF or more. Make sure your child wears a hat or sits in a shaded area if you are out in the sun for long periods of time.
Do not forget to protect your child’s eyes. This can be achieved through wearing a hat as well. Better yet, buy your child a pair sunglasses that have a UV absorption of 400 nano-meters or more. Of course sunglasses are more suitable for older children, who agree to keep them on.
How to Know if Your Children Got too Much Sun
Sunburn kills the cells directly beneath the skin just like any other first-degree burn. The immune system responds to the attack by directing more blood to the affected area, and opening up tiny blood vessels so white blood cells can gain access and remove the damage. Blood is warm. This is the heat you feel when you touch sunburned skin.
The Longer-Term Effects of Sunburn
The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn and can damage living human tissue. Excessive exposure over lengthy periods is the leading cause of skin deterioration that is often appears later in life. Depletion of the protective ozone layer in the atmosphere is admitting increased amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This means that what was safe 20 to 30 years ago is not necessarily safe now.
Not every sunscreen in the market is what it claims to be. In the latest Consumer Reports annual sunscreen test, only seven out of 20 tested products passed their criteria and earned a recommendation to be used.
“Consumers just need to be careful when they buy sunscreen, that they are looking at the labels and questioning the information they are reading,” says Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports deputy editor.