Staying Safe in The Sun
In the UK the sun is most powerful between early April and October. Throughout this time we need to think how we protect our skin from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. The sun is usually most powerful between 11am and 3pm.
If you travel to other countries the sun may be really powerful for more of the day and if you are high up in mountains the sun's rays are stronger so extra protection is needed.
When you are near water the sun's rays bounce off the surface and this increases their power.
You can still get sunburn when it is cloudy and windy so you still need to take care, even when it doesn't feel very hot.
We measure the strength of the sun using the ‘UV index’ a score from 1 to 11. Anything above 3 means care should be taken. The higher the number on the UV Index the higher the risk.
An index of 11 is dangerous if sun safety advice is not followed.
You can find out more about the index *here* and you can see what the UV index is near you today
A quick test of how high the UV level might be is the Shadow Test. If your shadow is the same height as you, or less, it means that the UV index is high and you need to take care.
It is hard to keep vitamin D levels up by diet alone. The easiest way to keep our levels up is by spending time outside in the sun but this needs to be done safely.
For this to work lower legs, or arms need to be exposed to sunlight;
- without using sunscreen
- for ‘short periods’ between April and September
- Between 11.00 and 15.00
It's good to know how sensitive each individual family member is to the sun. How long you can be out in the sun without sun protection will depend on age, health and skin type. How dark or fair skin is helps us judge how quickly a person might get sunburnt. Fairer skins are usually more sensitive.
It is not possible to be exact, but experts say that the fairest skinned people need 10 to 15 minutes outside during the sunniest part of the day.
Those with darker skins should need no more than about 25 minutes.
- It is important your child does not burn
- Be aware of the UV index that day
- Set an alarm on your phone so you do not forget how long they have been in the sun.
- Watch carefully
- Gradually build up to the maximum time tolerated
- Then apply sun protection to exposed skin
- Put sunscreen on as soon as you start to worry about their skin.
We can get Vitamin D through diet and supplements – supplements are recommended for many people (NHS advice for the whole family can be found *here*)
You know your child best and know what is safe for them. You may decide that taking supplements is a safer method for your child to get enough Vitamin D, especially if they have very sensitive skin.
If we do not care for our skin in the sun we will get sunburn. Sunburnt skin goes red or pink and is tender to touch. Burnt skin will sometimes blister and the dead skin cells will eventually peel.
Anyone who burns in this way has damaged their skin and increased the risk of skin cancers so it is important to avoid this.
Too much Sun can cause Sunstroke (heat exhaustion) and a person can get over heated and dehydrated. Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke which is dangerous. You can find out more about heat exhaustion and what to do *here*.
Babies and children, like adults, will be thirstier when it’s hot. The risk of dehydration is greater. They will be losing fluids through sweat too. Offer drinks regularly and keep an eye on how much they are having. They should still be passing urine regularly.
Babies and young children need extra protection from the sun because their skin is delicate can burn easily. Babies younger than 6 months of age are especially sensitive to the sun - keep them out of direct sunlight, in the shade.
Prams and buggies should not be covered with blankets, or cloths this can make the temperature around the baby dangerously high. Use a clip-on sun shade or sun parasol. You can check your baby is not too hot by feeling their tummy or the back of their neck.
Teenagers may be keen to have a sun tan – but a sun tan is a sign your skin is being damaged. The only safe tan is a fake tan! There are great fake tans out there and they are more fashionable. You could help your child choose one of these rather than risking sun damage.
You and your children should keep mostly in the shade during the hottest part of the day;
- Use trees or shade from buildings
- You can use parasols and sunshades.
- If no shade available stay inside as much as possible
Wear clothes to protect you;
- Long sleeved cotton tops, loose trousers or dresses will help you keep cool and protect you.
- Wear a hat it should have a wide brim and protect your neck too
- Special UV protection tops, suits and swimwear are available.
Wear eye protection;
- If you wear glasses all of the time make sure they have a UV filter of at least 400
- Wear sunglasses with the British Standards Kite Mark or the European CE mark to be sure of quality.
- Sunscreen is a part of how we can protect ourselves from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
- It varies in strength – this is known as the SPF or Sun Protection Factor. The higher the number the stronger the sunscreen. you need to use at least SPF of 30 to protect from UVB
- Sunscreen should say on the bottle that it protects from UVA rays
- The most expensive sunscreen is not always the best. There is a star rating to help you choose – a star rating of 4 and above gives the best protection.
- Sunscreen should not be too old – most bottles last for two years before losing strength
- Apply half an hour before sun exposure
- Apply again when you get out and about
- Then reapply roughly every two hours
- Reapply after swimming (even if it is water resistant)
- Reapply after getting dry or anytime it may have rubbed off
- Apply plenty – if it is not thickly applied it does not give the correct SPF protection.
There is more information on sunscreen and applying it well *here*
Need More Information?
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. CLICK HERE