Staying Safe Outside

Staying Safe in The Sun

Sunshine has been shown to improve our mood because it produces ‘feel good’ hormones, as well as chemicals that help us concentrate, and even sleep better.

Being in the sun is a nice way to spend time with our families. It gives us the chance to play and be active together, or relax and enjoy our surroundings. It is good for our physical and emotional wellbeing to get out and about.

Sunlight to help us maintain out Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D helps us;

  • Grow and maintain healthy bones
  • Fight off bacteria and viruses

Too much sun can be bad for us, so we need to take care. This is because the sun gives off harmful rays of radiation called Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). These rays beat down and can cause harmful, long lasting changes to the skin.

With preparation and planning we can enjoy being outside on lovely days and minimise the risks of too much, or too little sun.

Dive Deeper

Being In The Sun

In the UK the sun is most powerful between early April and October. We need to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun. The sun is usually most powerful between 11am and 3pm.

Be extra careful;

  • If you travel to other countries the sun may be really powerful for more of the day 
  • If you are high up in mountains where the sun's rays are stronger
  • If you are near water because the sun's rays bounce off the surface and are more powerful
  • When it is cloudy and windy even when it doesn't feel very hot, the sun can burn skin.

The strength of the sun is measured 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.

The Met office have more about the index and lets you 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.


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.

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.

How To Get Enough Sun Safely

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. Make sure children still have their head and neck protected by a hat.
    • For ‘short periods’ between April and September.
    • Between 11.00 and 15.00 with caution because this is the hottest part of the day.

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 and 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.

You know your child best and what is safe for them. You may decide the safest way for your child to get Vitamin ‘D’ is by giving a supplement.

    • Adults and children over one year should take 10 micrograms a day.
    • Babies under one who are breastfed or having less than 500mls of formula a day should have 8.5-10 micrograms a day.

You can speak to your pharmacist about this.

Avoiding Too Much Sun

Too much sun can cause sunstroke (heat exhaustion). This can cause over heating and dehydration. Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke which is dangerous.

Babies and children, like adults, will be thirstier when it’s hot. They have a higher risk of dehydration. We lose 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 even more delicate and 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.

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.

Prams & Buggies

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.

Stay In The Shade

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.

Sun Protection


  • 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.

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.

Applying Sunscreen 

  • 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.

Read more about sunscreen and applying it well

Who can Help?

You can contact a member of the 0-19 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.

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