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Keeping your child safe in the sun

Updated on November 21, 2012

Here comes the sun: sun protection for your child (but making sure they still have fun!)

Summer is almost here, hurrah! As the days get longer and the temperature starts to increase, chances are that your children will want to stay out and play in the sun more. It's really important though that you make sure your children are well-protected from the sun and heat. One of my boys managed to get really bad sunburn when we were on holiday last year, and I'm determined that this year they'll all have fun in the sun but stay safe too.

I've listed some great ways here to make sure that your children stay safe in the sun - hopefully ones that your children won't complain about! Whether you're going on a family holiday at home or abroad, or if you're just looking for some advice on general sun protection, you will find everything you need here to make the sun fun and safe for your children.

I really can't stress this one enough. Putting on a high factor sun cream is the best thing that you can do to ensure that both you and your child are protected from the sun's rays. Although it's lovely to get a nice natural tan, too much sun can cause serious damage to you and your child's skin.

There is a massive variety of sun cream available today created especially for children. Children have skin that is far more sensitive to heat than adults, so it's important that you make sure they're well protected at all times. Buying as high a factor sun cream as possible is the best way to go: for children, a sun cream that is SPF 50 or 60 is ideal. Many sun creams come in spray form now too, which save a lot of time and mess!

If your child likes swimming or will be spending a lot of time in the pool, then make sure the sun cream you buy is water-resistant. You can very easily get sunburn when in the water without realising. After your child has been in the water, make sure that you re-apply sun cream to ensure that they're still protected.

You should apply sun cream about 15-30 minutes before stepping outside; this will give the skin a chance to absorb the cream. Even if you're not planning on going swimming, regular re-application is the key to prevent sunburn. I usually try to make sure my boys top up the sun protection about once every hour; more if the sun is especially hot.

Don't forget about their feet! There's nothing worse than getting sunburn on your feet - it can make walking around really painful for weeks!

Other areas to remember when applying sun cream:

Back of the neck

Ears

Hands

Always carry sun cream with you so that if you're out and about you can still make sure your child isn't at risk from sunburn.

2: Cover up

Sunglasses, hats and more

Wherever you are, it's really important to make sure your child is well-covered up from the sun. The sun's rays are at their most damaging between 11am and 3pm, so take extra precautions during this part of the day.

Now, when it comes to covering up, your children may have different ideas. "I won't get sunburnt, don't worry!" "I don't want to put a hat on!" and "It's not even that sunny, I'll be fine!" are the most common protests I hear. But remember: even when it's quite a cloudy day, it is still very easy to get sunburn.

Sunglasses, a sun hat and a big T-shirt are essential when it comes to covering up. If your children pick these out themselves then it's far more likely that they'll wear them. T-shirts are also great for when your child is swimming.

If you have younger children or babies then you can buy parasols and sunshades that fit over pushchairs and prams for them so that they are in the shade at all times.

3: Hydration

Water, water, water! It is incredibly important that your children are kept well hydrated in the sun at all times. In the heat it is really easy to get dehydrated, particularly for children as they lose fluid more quickly.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

Thirst

Tiredness and lethargy

An irritable mood

Dizziness or headaches

Dry mouth, lips or eyes

Passing small amounts of urine less frequently than normal.

If you think that dehydration in your child is mild, then this can usually be fixed by giving them a big drink of water and making sure they keep drinking throughout the day. If it has progressed to a more serious stage then you may need to think about emergency hydration salts. Don't be afraid to seek medical advice if necessary.

Prevention is better than cure, so the best way to make sure your child is not at risk of dehydration is to keep drinking water and other liquids all day. Again, this is particularly important between 11am and 3pm. Carry a big bottle of water around with you all day and make sure both you and your children drink lots from it. Orange squash is also great for toddlers and babies.

Ice lollies are also a great way to prevent dehydration! My children love ice-pops, Calippos and Twisters.

Best sunhats on Amazon

Some ideas for great kinds of sunhats that your kids will love!

Melissa & Doug Flex Octopus Hat
Melissa & Doug Flex Octopus Hat

Lovely fun sun-hat for younger boys and girls

 
Flap Happy Infant Flap Hat, Navy, Small
Flap Happy Infant Flap Hat, Navy, Small

Protect your child's face and neck at the same time

 

For children with sensitive skin or allergies, try these sun cream brands:

Ambre Solaire 50+ kids

Soltan Kids Hypoallergenic Suncare spray with insect protection SPF 50

Simple Kids Sun Sensitive Protecting Suncare lotion SPF 50

There'll be a bit of trial and error here, as every child's skin is different. I've always found these brands to be really good, but let me know if you have any other recommendations! As a general rule, try and look out for ones that have 'hypoallergenic' in the title and ones that are perfume free.

Why is all this so important?

I find it quite scary how so many people don't recognise just how dangerous it can be to let children run around without any sort of protection from the sun. Of course, children shouldn't be cooped up inside all summer, and the sun can be a great source of well being as it provides that vital Vitamin D. But, the sun's UV rays can also be extremely harmful to our future health if not dealt with properly.

Did you know?

Did you know that the majority of UV damage to our skin occurs before we are 20? How about the fact that when our skin tans, it's actually a sign that our body is trying to prevent further UV damage from happening?

One of the major issues associated with the sun is the development of skin cancer. Approximately 70,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer every year. What is tragic is that, according to the NHS, 80% of these cases are actually preventable. If people took a few simple steps to keep safe in the sun, then they could greatly reduce their chances of contracting skin cancer.

Now, I'm not trying to scaremonger here. I've been sunburnt so many times, as I'm sure we all have. But we all do need to be aware of the full damage the sun can cause if we're not careful. Particularly in relation to children, this cannot be overstated!

What to do if your child gets sunburn

Sunburn and sunstroke

Sometimes no matter how much we try, we and our children can still catch the sun. If your child does get a little sunburnt or is suffering from sunstroke, then there are some simple steps you can take to help alleviate the pain.

Aftersun is great for cooling down the skin after being in the sun. Again, many brands these days have varieties that are specifically for children. My favourite kinds are ones which have aloe-vera in or cocoa butter in them. If your child has been sunburnt then make sure you apply extra aftersun to these areas as it will really help to cool the skin down.

Sunstroke is slightly more serious and should be dealt with immediately. Sometimes if your child has been in the sun for a long time, their skin can heat up too much, causing a rise in body temperature. It usually happens alongside sunburn. If your child is suffering from sunstroke, then they need to lie down in a cool and darkened room immediately. This will help to cool their body temperature. They should drink lots of water. Placing a damp cloth on their forehead can also help, but don't completely wrap them in cold or damp towels, as this will just make their body retain heat inside. The effects of sunstroke should usually disappear after a few hours, but again don't be afraid to seek medical advice if you think this is necessary.

Sunblock and aftersun

I've come up with a list of what I think are some of the best sun creams and after-suns available for children. Every child has different skin, so the ones listed below may not necessarily work for your child. If this happens, don't despair! Your local pharmacist or chemist will be able to recommend more specialist brands, if your child has very sensitive skin or is allergic to typical sun cream ingredients.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Daily Face and Body Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 40, 4  Ounce
Johnson & Johnson Baby Daily Face and Body Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 40, 4 Ounce

Perfect for those sunny days in the pram! The SPF 40 may not be enough if you are in a hot climate, but if it's a little sunny or warm then this kind of sun cream is perfect.

 
Banana Boat Kids Tear Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 8 Oz (Pack of 2)
Banana Boat Kids Tear Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 8 Oz (Pack of 2)

With a respectable SPF of 50, this sun cream is ideal for running about during the summer.

 
Banana Boat Sunscreen Kids MAX Protect & Play Broad Spectrum Sun Care Sunscreen Lotion - SPF 100, 4 Ounce
Banana Boat Sunscreen Kids MAX Protect & Play Broad Spectrum Sun Care Sunscreen Lotion - SPF 100, 4 Ounce

The higher the SPF, the better, as is the case with this sun cream. This will provide your child with optimum protection from the sun's UV rays.

 

Babies and sun safety

Babies have far more sensitive skin than older children, meaning that it's even more important that they are kept well protected from the sun's UV rays. With babies and toddlers, however, although it is often extremely tempting to cover them from head to toe in suncream, parents must be careful with this. The chemicals contained within suncream are far more likely to prove damaging on a baby's skin than on slightly older children.

It is also important to consider Vitamin D supplies. In the UK, there have been rising numbers of rickets cases amongst children, caused by parents putting suncream on their children before leaving the house, thereby preventing their children from receiving the vital vitamin D supplies from the sun. With babies, therefore, it is often better to keep them covered up and in the shade, so that even if they are briefly in the sun their skin will have the chance to absorb that vital Vitamin D. A little sun cream is fine, but don't go overboard with children under 2.

Now, all of this may seem as though making sure your child is protected in the sun is going to be like a massively complicated strategic operation. Trust me, it's actually really simple! Just use your common sense and follow my tips - before you know it, they'll become second nature.

When in doubt, remember this popular Australian saying: Slip, slop, slap!

Slip on a T-shirt

Slop on some suncream

Slap on a hat

And there you go! Above all, enjoy the sun with your children!

Other resources

For more information on child safety in the sun and when on holiday, check out these links:

Please leave a comment to let me know what you think of this lens, plus any tips of your own about keeping your children safe in the sun!

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    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 4 years ago

      Protecting ourselves from the sun is so important! We use natural based sunscreen and wear really big hats :)

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      This is very important information and I do hope that people heed it. I am very fair and have had skin cancer because of playing in the sun when a teen. Skin cancer is no fun!

      Angel blessed!

    • limited279 profile image

      limited279 5 years ago

      Great lens, however a few of the sun screens you have listed have many bad chemicals in them that are as bad for children's skin as UV rays are. Iy is very important to get natural sunblock without chemical names on the back you can't pronounce. Our homestead (Hummingbird Homestead Soap) makes our own for our two boys and it only has zinc oxide, olive oil, and shea butter.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

      As others have said, a very important topic!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Thank you for publishing this lens on such an important topic. I'm sure this will help many. When I was a child everyone talked about having a healthy tan. Now I know that's a bad idea.

    • profile image

      barbiefashionistas 5 years ago

      Protection is very necessary when being outside in the sun. People neglect it too often.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very important information. We have lots of sun in my part of the U.S., and it takes a toll. Both my parents had skin Cancer, and me too. Hope people heed your warning.

    • melissiaoliver profile image
      Author

      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      @JoshK47: Glad that you found it useful!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Nicely put together info here! Thanks for sharing!

    • melissiaoliver profile image
      Author

      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      @scanlonlorraine: Haha, I know what you mean, I spent one summer in Bridlington and managed to get the most horrific sunburn just from playing tennis one afternoon. Glad the lens was useful!

    • profile image

      scanlonlorraine 5 years ago

      In Ireland its really hard to be ready for the sun, just last month we had a really hot weekâ¦and then it snowed the following week. My son went out to play and came back with a red neck all because I told myself he couldn't possibly get burnt in March in Ireland!!! Oh well live and learn..when your not sure then just be safe. Great lens very practical. Thanks!!