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Keeping your child safe in the sun

Keeping your child safe in the sun

August 8, 2016 - By Dr Antony Zardis

Dr Antony Zardis warns of the dangers of sunburn and shares tips on how to keep your child safe this Summer.

Your little one's skin is the most sensitive skin of all, therefore it can get sun burnt very easily, hence why it is very important that during these summer months, we protect it as much as possible. Sunblock automatically first springs to mind as a way of protecting their skin from the damaging effects of the sun, but be under no illusion that the book stops here.

How do I keep them protected from the sun

  • Hats - The floppy kind with the wide brim that hangs over the back of the neck, ears and forehead.
  • Sunglasses - These must meet British standards and have the CE mark to prove so.
  • Play in the shade - Keep them out of direct sunlight and encourage them to play in the shade. This is especially important during the hours of 11am through to when the sun is at it's strongest.
  • Loose clothing -Cover them up in loose, baggy cotton clothes such as an oversized t-shirt.
  • Sunblock

Sunblock - Factors and Stars

When choosing a sun block you need to choose one with a minimum of Factor 15 for yourself and young children, but preferably Factor 50 for babies. The higher the factor used, the more protection from the UVB radiation the sun emits.

Look closely at the rating, found on the reverse of the bottle. The star rating reflects the amount of UVA radiation protection from the sun. Be sure to use a sun block which is labelled with 4 stars or above.


There is a technique to applying sunblock onto your skin. It is important not to rub it in too hard. Instead gently pat it in so that it forms a protective layer on your skin.

Ideally apply 20-30 minutes before exposure to the sun, in order to allow time for the sunblock to soak into the skin and work.

Your Face and Arms may require teaspoons worth on each part.

Your Legs and Body may require tablespoons worth on each part.

Do not forget to apply sun block on the tips of ears, paying particular attention to the area behind the ears. Both these areas are often easily forgotten and thus commonly burn. The shoulders, nose, lips and tops of feet are also particular hot spots.


Remember to re-apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours , after swimming and after towel drying.

Moisture from excess sweating can also dilute the potency of the sunblock and therefore frequent re-application is essential when temperatures soar.

Remember! No sunblock is 100% effective and it provides less protection than clothes or shade. Sunblocks can go out of date. Their shelf life is usually 2 - 3 years, however their protective ingredients do go off when out in direct sunlight and heat which will inevitably happen if you are by the beach or the pool. It is therefore advisable that you buy a new sunblock every year, in order to be certain of maximum protection for your children. Be sure to store your sunblock somewhere cool and shady. I like to store mine in the hotel mini bar fridge within easy reach!

Useful Facts:

1. If you or your child have tanned, then you have done some damage to your skin. There is no such thing as a healthy tan.....it's that simple!

2. Wet clothes let more UV light through them compared to dry clothes so be sure to carry a spare change of clothes for your little one as they are sure to get splashed.

3. Be aware that even if you are sat in the shade, you should still protect your selves from the sun as sand, sea, concrete and snow are all very good reflectors of the sun's rays.....right back onto your skin.

4. If your holiday destination is up a mountain, make no mistake that the sun's rays are stronger at high altitude and therefore more aggressive protective measures should be taken.

5. The water does not protect you from the sun, therefore even if your children are in the sea or pool, be sure to apply waterproof sunblock before hand. Be sure to re-apply sun block, after a swim, even if waterproof. If it will wash off in the shower....it will also wash off in the sea.

6. Only thick cloud will provide some protection from the sun's radiation, therefore if it is slightly overcast, be sure to still cover up.

7. Be sure to keep yourself and your child well hydrated to avoid heat stroke and exhaustion. It is worth investing in a Thermos bottle if you are planning a long trip, in order to keep your water fresh and cool. If your child won't drink water, try a drop of their favourite cordial in order to encourage them to drink fluids.

8. SunSense is an Australian brand of sunscreen which protects against UVA and UVB using an SPF  of 50 plus. This is available on prescription from your GP if you or your child suffer from skin conditions such as eczema.


Babies and children should never be allowed to develop sunburn. Should this occur, it is important to seek medical advice.

In the interim, use ibuprofen and paracetamol to alleviate the pain and an after sun cream to moisturise and keep the area of skin damage cool.

What about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunlight. It is an important vitamin for good health and strong bones, but it isn't found easily amongst the foods we eat. We are therefore dependant on sunlight to gain our main source of Vitamin D.

Many mums are often concerned that if they protect their children from the sun too much, they will end up Vitamin D deficient. It is true that as a population, we are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, but this is not because we protect ourselves from the sun too much during the summer months, but because we are not exposed to enough sunlight during the winter months, as a result of the UK's geographical location. 

It is therefore important to strike a fine balance between enjoying the sun sensibly to make enough Vitamin D to remain healthy, whilst not burning and thus increasing your risk of skin cancer.

You should aim to expose your child to the sun approximately 3 times per week in the months of April to September, for 20 - 30 minutes but NOT during the peak sun light hours of 11am - 3pm.

Try to introduce Oily Fish such as Salmon into your child's diet from a young age, at least once a week. It is the best dietary source of Vitamin D and will act as a great top up of the reservoir during the bleak mid winter. Mackerel and Cod Liver Oil are also great sources, but good luck to you with that!

In conclusion

Sunblock is not some sort of magic barrier to the sun that will stop you or your little one getting burnt and thus reduce the risk of getting skin cancer in the future. Sunscreen is merely your last line of defence and is part of a wider and more holistic approach to sun protection.

Keep yourself and your little ones, well hydrated, well covered and well protected and you won't go far wrong this summer.

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