The facts about sunscreen

More than a fifth of parents with children under 11 do not apply any sunscreen to their child until they visibly start to burn, according to a survey released earlier this month.

The information from NHS England and the Met Office shocked me. The link between sunburn and skin cancer is proven and, from what I gather, pretty widely known.

So why are so many parents admitting to being reckless? I got to thinking about it during the #babyhour chat last week. There were a lot of facts flying around and a lot of us taking part in the conversation were learning information about the use of suncream and baby skincare that we had never heard.

There’s so much information about skin cancer out there and stories from individuals who now regret not taking enough precautions. Actor Hugh Jackman has recently raised awareness of the disease after having his sixth skin cancer removed from his nose in just two years. And yet we still seem clueless.

I think the trouble is we often think we’re being sun-safe. We think we’re using the best product and applying it enough. We think we’re being cautious. In fact we’re more misinformed than we realise.

The research revealed other shocking statistics such as:

  • Almost two fifths of parents mistakenly believe suntans are a sign of good health.
  • One in 10 parents of young children aged two to seven encourage them to sunbathe.
  • 20 percent of parents wait until their child asks for sun screen before applying it.

When it comes to me, I’m extremely cautious whenever the sun comes out. The sun is another example of things that spark my parenting paranoia. Everyone knows you can’t keep a toddler out of the garden when the weather is nice, and why should you? But I do worry about her as she is very fair like myself. I burn extremely easily so find myself fretting about keeping her in the shade as much as possible.

So I thought I would do a little research of my own to find out what I should be doing to be completely safe with my children. I already apply factor 50 to them both several times a day. I try to keep my baby out of direct sunlight. But what else should I know about?

Here’s a run through of the latest guidance and facts about sunscreen use for children:

  • Choose sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. This stops burning and tanning. Even tanning in children is a sign of skin damage. Find a sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays. This may be labelled as a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
  • Look for the UVA star rating. I always just looked at the SPF factor but actually the star rating is relevant too when it comes to protecting the skin. Go for the full five star rating. I was shocked at how many of the big brands sold sunscreen for kids that didn’t have more than one or two stars.
  • Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • You need to use about one ounce (about a shot glass full) of sunscreen for exposed areas.
  • Reapply. You need to reapply cream every two hours or immediately after your child comes out of the water. Ignore the water resistant promise on bottles and reapply anyway.
  • Try to avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm when rays are at their most intense.
  • You can burn in the shade. Children still need to wear sunscreen even when in the shade.
  • Buy sunglasses that offer UVA protection. They will say on the label. Be wary of buying sunglasses abroad as they may look cool but offer zero UVA protection. UK sellers must specify the protection sunglasses offer.
  • Cover up. Exposed shoulders, back of the neck and the scalp will burn easily. Try to pick swimwear that covers these areas and a wide brimmed hat or one with a flap covering the neck. I love this design from JoJo Maman Bebe. It dries really quickly and offers cover for the face and neck. Otherwise try to avoid clothes with spaghetti straps for very young children, as it leaves a lot of skin exposed.
  • Just because you’re in the UK, doesn’t mean you don’t need sunscreen. You might think you only need to worry about the sun when you’re on that beach in sunny Spain. Actually you can burn in the UK, and it can happen surprisingly quickly. If in doubt check the UV Index with the Met Office. A UV Index of three or more means it is hot enough to burn.
  • Be careful about creating shade over a buggy using a blanket. You can actually cause your baby to overheat as the blanket absorbs the heat from the sun and traps it where your baby is sitting. Pick a sunshade designed to let air circulate. There are loads on the market.

So there you have it. I hope this advice was helpful. If you already knew it, that’s great too.

Are you a big worrier when it comes to your children and sun exposure? Do you limit their time in the sun or just take extra precautions?

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Tips for keeping children safe in the sun

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