10 ways to keep your kids sun safe

Summer is coming, and so is the dangerous time of year when UV levels are high. Here are 10 things to remember about sun protection, and keeping your kids sun safe.

1. Five teaspoons of sunscreen

Whenever they are in the sun, kids should be wearing broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen. This will protect them from both UVA and UVB rays. If the kids are swimming, it should be water resistant as well. Apply liberally BEFORE going out in the sun – a rule of thumb is a shot glass full (five teaspoons) of sun screen – and reapply every two hours. Remember those places you might not think of like the tops of ears, the back of the neck, the tops of feet and the hair parting. For babies, use a sunscreen especially for babies and only use on small sections of skin.

2. A brimful of hat

Protect your child’s face, head and eyes from the sun with a hat, ideally with a 3-inch or more brim all around. Caps and visors do not protect the sides of the face or the back of the neck. Often children at first do not like wearing hats, but use persistence to teach them that wearing a hat is part of their outside routine.

3. Some long sleeves

Even the best sunscreen can’t completely protect our skin from the strong Australian sun. The best policy is to cover kids up when in the sun, swimming or playing at the beach with long-sleeved shirts, rashies or wetsuits. Babies and young children need extra protection as their skin is more sensitive than adults.

4. A cool shady spot

At most Australian beaches you’ll notice that most families bring their own beach umbrella or sun igloo. It is a good idea if you intend to spend a long time at the beach to take some shade with you, or seek out the shade of a tree or overhanging rock. Remember though, even in the shade you can still get burnt from the sun’s rays reflecting off sand and water.

5. Avoid the hottest part of the day

Take a leaf from Mediterranean countries who know well the advantages of keeping cool during the hottest part of the day. When the sun is at its strongest, keep the kids in the shade or go home for a siesta.

6. You can still get burnt on cloudy, cool or windy days

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the cool, windy or cloudy day means you won’t get burnt. Sun damage is caused by UV rays, which can penetrate and reflect off clouds, and are present even on cool and windy days. It all depends on the UV levels of the day, which vary from location to location. You can check on the Cancer Council Sun Smart widget.

7. Protect their eyes

The glare and UV rays can also damage the eyes and the skin around the eyes. Sunglasses with the ability to block UV rays can help, with a wrap-around design offering the best protection. Wearing a hat can block up to half of UVB rays from entering your eyes.

8. You can get burnt in the car

Remember, the sun’s rays can burn through the car window or when the windows are down. Be aware when you’re driving or stuck in traffic that the kids in the back may be getting burnt.

9. Even skin that tans easily needs protecting

As the Cancer Council keep reminding us, there’s no such thing as a safe tan. So even if your kids have olive skin, and seem to tan easily, remember that exposure to UV rays can cause permanent damage.

10. Teach your kids these sun-smart strategies

Following sun-smart strategies is a life-long necessity in a country like Australia. Teach your kids to put on their own sunscreen, remember their hats for school, sport and beach, and keep your kids sun safe, for life.

If you or someone in your family has been out in the sun and is feeling unwell, get the person to a cool area, lie them down and keep them cool with wet cloths. Increase fluid intake and if after 20 minutes or so, if there is no improvement, seek medical advice. If it is at night or on the weekend when GP Practices are closed, call or click 13SICK for a bulked billed* home doctor visit.
* if eligible for Medicare rebates