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Dr. Victor Miranda


Paediatrician

 

Children and the sun

HPA Magazine 10

 

Children should spend a good part of the time outdoors. Exposure to the sun is beneficial for the production of vitamin D, which is essential for building strong bones. 
However, children’s skin is more sensitive and delicate and should be protected from an early age. Some authors even suggest that children under 3 years of age should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
The harm caused by excessive exposure accumulates and can damage the eyes and skin, causing sunburn and increasing the risk of skin cancer in adulthood.
The degree of sensitivity of children’s skin is variable. Children with lighter skin, with moles or freckles, green or blue eyes, red or blond hair or with a family history of melanoma, are more susceptible.

 


What precautions should we take? 

  1. Avoid exposure to the sun between 11 am and 5 pm because this is when the UV rays are strongest.
  2. Use sunscreen where the skin is exposed when on the beach, at the pool and in all outdoor activities, even on cloudy days. Choose a product with protection against UVA and UVB, with an SPF of 30+ (the higher factors are the most efficient for protection against sunburn) that is water resistant and hypoallergenic. Up to 2 years of age, mineral sunscreens are recommended (titanium oxide or zinc oxide based). Children with moles or blemishes should use the highest sun protection factor.
  3. Apply the sunscreen about 30 minutes before exposure to the sun and reapply regularly, according to needs (bathing, sweating), but at least every two hours. Special attention should be given to completely cover the areas most susceptible to sunburn: the face, nose, ears, nape of the neck, shoulders, hands, feet, inner elbows and backs of the knees.
  4. Children younger than 6 months should always be in the shade. Sunscreen can be applied to exposed areas because some solar radiation is reflected by the sand, water and ground.
  5. Always use protective clothing (protecting the arms, trunk and legs), a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face, nose and nape of the neck, and sunglasses with adequate protection against UV rays.
  6. Increase the intake of water to avoid dehydration.
  7. Parents and carers should set an example by also protecting themselves appropriately.

Educating children so that they understand the risks of sun exposure is a measure of precaution that allows children to enjoy outdoor activities in health and safety.