As adults we are all aware that we need to be safe in the sun. It’s also our responsibility to protect children from the sun.
The hot sun and bronzed skin are synonymous with Australia, but protecting ourselves from the sun is vital for our health and the health of the children in our care. While sunburn is an uncomfortable but temporary reminder of being less than smart in the sun, there can be more serious repercussions from sun exposure.
What causes sun damage?
The ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) produced by the sun is what causes sun damage, including sunburn, skin cancers, damage to vision and premature ageing.
According to KidsHealth.org, sunburn is caused when the level of UV radiation we are exposed to exceeds the level that our own melanin levels, a chemical in our skin, can protect us from. Even a once highly regarded suntan is a sign of sun damage and is certainly not healthy — especially not for young people.
What is particularly concerning is that our risk for skin cancer is increased by the sun damage and excess UV exposure experienced during childhood and adolescence. In other words, sun damage in youth can have a long term impact.
Because children’s skin is so sensitive, Cancer Council recommends that children under 1-year old should not be exposed to sun when UV levels are 3 or higher. Helping all children gain an understanding of how to enjoy the sun safely can be a part of your role as a child care professional, and chances are your centre will have its own sun safety guidelines to adhere to so make sure you’re aware of those.
What about vitamin D?
We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, so it’s important to note that some sun is okay — in fact, some sun is necessary for good health!
Don’t let that confuse you though. If the UV index is 3 or above, sun protection is required. Depending on where you live and what season it is, you can gain enough vitamin D within a few minutes of time in the sun. To be on the safe side, early morning and evenings tend to have the safest UV index, but the SunSmart app can help you monitor this.
Want to learn more about being SunSmart? Here are two more blogs in this series!
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