Aah, summer … lazy days spent playing in the sunshine with your children. But while it’s fun being outside, it’s important to make sure your kids stay safe in the sun.
From knowing how often you need to reapply sun cream – also referred to as sunscreen – through to the ‘safe hours’ for your child to be in direct sunlight, we’ve got everything you need to know about sun care safety for babies and children this summer.
Sun cream – which one to buy?
Choosing which sun lotion to get for your kids can be confusing. From SPF (sun protection factor) to star ratings on the back of the bottle, what does it all mean? And which ones are right for your children?
Dr Rachel Orritt, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, told Netmums, ‘Both mums and children should use sunscreen that is AT LEAST SPF15 with 4 stars.
‘The SPF rating measures protection from UVB rays [that burn the skin], whereas the star rating is how well the product protects against UVA rays [that lead to wrinkles and skin ageing]. Both types are linked to skin cancer risk.’
The higher factor you use, the higher the protection from the sun.
And don’t think you have to buy an expensive sun cream. According to experts, the price is not important as long as it meets the above points.
Sun cream has an expiry date – it’s a good idea to buy new bottle every year.
How often should you apply sun cream?
All kids hate having sun cream applied. But to keep your child safe in the sun, you need to reapply regularly. Also, make sure you put on the first application before you go outside.
Dr Orritt says, ‘Most people don’t use enough sunscreen, and it can be rubbed or washed off easily. For sunscreen to be effective, it needs to be applied generously, and reapplied regularly.’
Many suncream brands recommend reapplying at least every two hours.
And don’t forget your kids can burn even on cloudy days, so always reapply sun cream regularly.
How much sun cream should you use?
How much sunscreen you put on your child is also important. The advice from Garnier – the company behind suncream Ambre Solaire – is:
Pre-school kids – use approximately four x 5 ml teaspoons each application.
School kids – use five teaspoons for children each application.
A 200 ml bottle will be enough for up to 10 applications.
Make sure you cover your child’s ears, face and back of the neck, as well as the rest of her skin that isn’t covered by clothes.
Do ‘all day’ and water resistant products work?
Experts advise that no matter what suncream you get, it’s worth reapplying throughout the day.
Dr Orritt says, ‘It’s important to reapply sunscreen regularly, including ‘once a day’ and ‘water resistant’ products.
‘Some products are designed to stay on better than others, but beware of sunscreen rubbing, sweating or washing off.
‘It’s especially important to reapply after toweling dry, and it can help avoid missing bits of skin.’
Should babies stay out of the sun completely?
The NHS website advises keeping babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday when the sun is at its strongest.
Dr Orritt says, ‘Everyone needs a little bit of sun for vitamin D, but most children and adults get enough from a short amount of time outside, much less than it takes to burn.’
How can I keep my child sun safe at nursery or school?
Skin cancer charity SKcin, provides advice to schools, nurseries and parents about sun safety. Nurseries and schools can register to get Sun Safe status.
Things you could ask your child’s school or nursery include:
- What is their policy on sun cream – how often is it applied/do kids have a chance to apply it?
- Do they make all children wear hats/ sunglasses in the sun?
- Do they try and organize activities out of the sun when it’s at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm?
What should you do if your baby or child gets sunburn?
The NHS website advises the first thing you should do is get out of the sun and either go indoors or move into the shade.
Your baby’s skin is very fragile so if your baby or young child has sunburn, you should contact your GP for advice.
If your child is older, you can treat her mild sunburn at home:
- Cool her skin by sponging it with cold water or by applying a cold compress, such as a cold flannel, to the burnt area.
- Get her to drink plenty of fluids to cool her down and prevent dehydration.
- Apply a water-based emollient or petroleum jelly like Vaseline to keep her skin cool and moist.
What should you do if your baby or child gets sunstroke?
Babies and young children are at higher risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
According to the NHS website, heat exhaustion is where you become very hot and start to lose water or salt from your body.
Heatstroke is where your body is no longer able to cool itself your body temperature gets dangerously high. Sunstroke is when this is caused by too much exposure to direct sunlight.
If you think your baby or child has heat exhaustion or heat/sunstroke, seek medical advice.
- feelings of tiredness,
- intense thirst
- being sick
- a fast pulse.
Treatment tips include:
Lying down in a cool place, in the shade or an air-conditioned room.
Removing extra clothes to expose as much skin as possible
Cooling the skin using a wet sponge or flannel, cold packs around the neck and armpits, or wrap them in a cool, wet sheet
Fanning the skin while it’s moist – this will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin cool down
Drinking fluids such as water, fruit juice or a re-hydration drink, such as a sports drink.