Safer Fun in the Sun with Your Children

By Lyne Gillespie RN, Ottawa Public Health June 25, 2020

Outdoor activities are a great way to be active with your children.

As parents, we can help children learn how to be sun safe by making it fun and by being good role models. It is important that you take care of your skin and your child's skin while outside so you can all enjoy activities safely. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can't be seen or felt. Know your daily UV Index: check your local radio, TV stations or online for the UV Index Forecast in your area. When the UV Index is 3 or higher, limit your child's time in the sun.

The risk of skin cancer later in life is increased by:

  • Going outside in the sun unprotected (not using sunscreen or proper clothing).
  • 1 or more blistering sunburns during childhood or as a teenager.

Protecting your child from the sun:

  • Limit the time in the sun when the UV Index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.,      between April and September.
  • Clothing and accessories are best at blocking UV rays. Dress your children in long pants and      long-sleeved shirts in tightly woven fabric. Dark or bright colors such as orange and red block more UV rays. 
  • Wear wide-brim hats to protect the face, ears and neck and close fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection. Choose sunglasses for children and babies that are unbreakable.
  • Look for a shaded place for children to play by using a UV protective tent or pop-up shade      shelter, umbrella or resting under a big tree. Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight by using a canopy or umbrella over your baby's stroller to give shade.
  • Don't forget to do the Shadow Test. It's a simple way to help determine when it's time to seek      shade. If the child's shadow is shorter than they are, the sun's rays are strong, and they should seek shade or go inside.

What about sunscreen?:

Ask your health care provider or pharmacist to help you choose the best sunscreen for your child. Don't forget to check the expiry date and replace sunscreen that is out-of-date.

  • Sunscreen should only be used on babies over the age of six months. If your baby is less than 6      months of age, please check with your health care provider before using sunscreen.
  • There are many sunscreens available on the market. They include  sunscreens for babies over 6 months, as well as for people with sensitive skin. Before using sunscreen, test it on a small area of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, labelled "broad-spectrum" and "water-resistant". 
  • Reapply sunscreen when needed (especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off).
  • Use a sunscreen lip balm. 
  • Always follow the directions on the sunscreen container. It is important that sunscreen be      applied correctly and generously for it to do its job.
  • Pay special attention to areas that are easy to miss. Think about the ears, nose, back of the      neck, legs, top of feet and up to and under the edges of bathing suits.

For more information about sun safety, visit the Parenting in Ottawa web page. 

Have fun, stay safe! 

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