Why is sun safety so important?
Due to our geography and lifestyle, Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. In such a sun-soaked country, there is probably nothing more important than protecting your children from the harsh rays of the sun.
Children who are burnt often in their early years are at an increased risk of developing melanoma later in life. Encouraging a culture of proper sun safety early can develop important habits in your children that will help protect them through life.
Sun safety for newborns: 0-6 months
Newborn babies don’t have the protective skin compound melanin in the same amounts as older babies. Likewise, a newborn’s skin is too sensitive for sunscreen, so it is advised that babies of this age avoid direct sunlight, particularly during the middle parts of the day.
Some precautions you can take include:
- Buying mesh coverings for your car windows
- Dressing your baby in arm and leg length lightweight clothing
- Taking walks or going out before or after the sun’s strongest hours i.e. before 10am and after 4pm
- Dressing your baby with a wide-brimmed sun hat or bonnet
- Choosing a pram with an extendable shade cover.
Sun safety for older babies: 6-12 monthsAt this age you can now use sunscreen on babies. This is perfect timing as this is the age where babies will want to start interacting with the world around them. Keep in mind that the sun is at its strongest between 10am and 4pm, and when the UV index is above 3.
- The first time you use sunscreen, choose a broad spectrum, SPF30+ variety and test it on a small area of your baby’s skin. Wait 30 minutes to see if there is a reaction
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside to any areas of skin not covered by clothing. Reapply every 2-3 hours thereafter. If you’re playing in water, it’s a good idea to reapply sunscreen every 1-2 hours
- Broad brimmed hats or legionnaire’s hats are ideal for protecting the face and neck area. Wraparound sunglasses also protect the eyes from UV and should have an EPF of 10
Sun safety for toddlers: 12+ monthsIt’s a little harder to apply (and keep on) all the sun protections for an increasingly headstrong toddler, which is why it’s so important for adults to communicate and be good role models.
- Spray on suncsreens are handy for mobile toddlers. For the face, however, sunscreen should be applied by hand
- Rash tops and board shorts should be the name of the game for swimming areas. These dry faster than normal clothing and will keep toddlers warm
- If you’re selecting an outdoor pool or playground to spend the afternoon, ensure it has protective shadecloths or tree cover
- Bucket hats are great at this age since they come down low on an active toddler’s head and are less likely to fall off