On hot, sunny days, your babies are going to be exposed to harmful sun rays even if you stay in the shade - make sure they are well protected with sun cream or sun block, but make sure that the products you apply are suitable for babies.
Sun creams work in one of two ways. Chemical creams bond with the skin to create a protective layer from the harmful ultra violet rays from the sun. Physical 'block' creams form a surface over the skin and, although mostly invisible, preventing harmful rays from reaching the skin.
Make sure you use blocking creams for babies. These are mineral based, usually listing titanium or zinc as their active ingredients, and characteristically don't rub in so well, often even leaving a faint glaze over the body. This may not look great, but is good news as you can see the sunblock in effect.
Sun creams marketed at children should be the physical sun block type so it is worth seeking out those products specifically, even if they are more expensive than adult sun creams and even if they don't appear to 'rub in' well.
There is also some concern that chemical based sun creams may be carcinogenic as tests on animals have shown that some ingredients cause cancer cells to multiply more quickly and have also led to developmental problems. Perhaps it's best that you also started using the kids' suncream just to be sure...
Teaching your toddler some basic rituals when it comes to everyday livinhg is a great and easy way to introduce some good (and advisable!) habits into their lives. The more they get used to following these simple rules, the easier it will be to keep them safe and actually introduce them to some good practice.
- Hands Please - Make sure you get into the habit of washing hands in certain situations: before eating, after playing outside, after going to the toilet and after stroking pets. Make it more fun by having nice smelly soap that the children can reach and use on their own if they are old enough. Make sure there's a step to reach the tap and a nice fresh towel to wipe clean.
- Going To The Toilet - Teach the little ones how to wipe their bottoms as soon as they start going to the toilet. If they practice how to do it properly on their own from the start they will get into the habit and keep doing it when they go to the toilet alone. Make sure you teach them how to flush and close the toilet lip safely. Use moist wipes to ensure they are fresh.
- Teeth - Make sure you get your child to wash their teeth twice a day and do yours at the same time too to show them that you do it as well. Supervise and do the washing, but also let them try too and have a brush about. Explain that good brushing means healthy teeth and no uncomfortable cavities!
- Food Fun - Try and keep to a healthy diet. Sweet things are allowed, of course, but keep them to a minimum and after having eaten the healthy foods. Create a food chart to ensure you eat five fresh fruits or vegetables each day. Encourage the children to pick which fruit to have at the supermarket. Eat the fruit and vegetables in different ways: cooked in stews, cooked an their own, raw, chopped into slices or sticks. Make sure you choose colourful vegetables with your meals and even try presenting in different ways. Could broccoli and carrot sticks be a forest? Explain that sweet things are fine in moderation but that is the vitamins, minerals, dairy products, carbohydrates and all good foods that help us grow, give us energy and have fun. And, of course, drink lots of water too!
- Keep the Family Moving - Explain that keeping active is a fabulous way to have fun, keep healthy and keep happy! Do walks or bike rides together, or go for swimming sessions as a family. Walk to school or nursery when you can and walk to the local shops too. Run about in local parks or open spaces or head to soft play centres to climb and run and swing about. Get a bike for your little one as early as you can and encourage them to ride. Dance about and sing songs too and be as active as you can.
- Sleep Time - Getting enough sleep is vital for you and your child so make sure you get into the habit of good and long nights sleep from an early age. Of course there are often troubles with sleeping, but do you best to get them to sleep alone and go back to sleep when they wake in the night. Stick to regular bed times, make sure they are warm enough (though, not too hot!), that they have teddies/comforters nearby, that the room is dark but not too dark to make it alarming if they wake.
- Be Safe - Teach them some basic safety requirements and they will be less likely to have accidents throughout their childhood. Show them how to climb stairs and come down safely. Show them how to get into chairs and get out again. And practise over and again to make sure they are confident and safe.
- Sunny Days - Always apply suncream as a matter of course and keep it handy throughout the day should you need to re-apply. Make it a part of your routine when leaving the house so it becomes normal to apply the cream with minimum fuss.
According to the Daily Mail, one in ten parents do not put enough suncream on their children! This is a staggeringly high figure when you consider that British children have the highest rates of skin cancer in Europe and that the previously price-prohibitive lotions are now cheaper than ever before.
The study carried out by SunSense (an Australian suncare brand) found that a quarter of parents don't think it necessary to apply sun cream before going off to school or nursery every morning in the summer months.
The fact remains that although it seems the British sun is a less frequent visitor and that it feels less "hot" than when abroad, we do still need to protect our children's skin. On a cloudy day, 80% of the harmful UV rays still penetrate the cloud which is why getting sun burned can happen when it's not bright sunshine.
Children are exposed to greater levels of UV rays than adults. They play outdoors, they are more inclined to wear shorts and sleeveless t-shirts and they have long summer holidays which are filled with playing in local parks and gardens where the sun beats down.
Sunburn in chidren can double the risk of skin cancer causing deep seated damage that only becomes apparent later in life.
UVA OR UVB Protection?
UVA light is made up of:
- UVA rays: these are the rays that cause premature aging
- and UVB rays:these are the rays that cause burning.
BOTH increase the risk of skin cancer.
The sunscreens that offer the best protection are those that have both high UVA and UVB protection. The UVA rating is not always listed on suncream. It is measured in stars out of five (the best being five out of five). The UVB rating is measured in SPF (Skin Protection Factor). A high UVB rating is around 50 although some brands go even higher!
Children should always wear sun screen with an SPF of at least 30 and for small children it should be at least 40.
Sun cream should be applied 30 minutes before going into the sun and re-applied every 2-3 hours. If you go swimming, it should be applied again after drying off.
People often don't put enough sun screen on their children. About 1-2 tablespoons should be enough to apply for a baby. About 2-3 tablespoons for an older child and adult.
Enjoy the sun... but be careful!