Sun safety for children hits the headlines

MFM explores shocking results of study and explains what you need to know

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An alarming study claimed recently that children as young as 6 said they want to get a tan by sunbathing this summer.

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According to high street store Superdrug’s poll on sun exposure, a third of 6 to 8-year-olds will sunbathe at “every available opportunity” and, worryingly, a fifth do not intend to use suncream, reports The Metro.

MFM thought it important to look deeper into what this means. The results of the poll are certainly eyebrow-raising but, is this really a true picture of children’s attitude to the sun, and should we be concerned?

The survey makes us wonder what questions the children were asked as part of the poll and whether they were open or closed questions: what 6-year-old would really say that they wanted to sunbathe at “every availlable opportunity”?

Plus, the claim that 1 in 5 children say they won’t wear sunscreen – well, isn’t that our job as parents? When it comes to our children, it’s our resposibility to make sure that they are protected when exposed to the sun.

The claim that the average person gets 80 per cent of his or her lifetime skin-to-sun contact before hitting 18 means that the early years are most important for protecting children’s skin and educating them about enjoying the sun safely.

But how vigilant do we need to be, particularly in the overcast weather we often see in Britain? MFM asked the British Skin Foundation their thoughts.

What do we need to know about suncare and our children?

“Protecting your children’s skin is definitely important even on overcast days, as up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate through cloud. The sun may not be as strong in the UK as it is in other countries, but it can definitely be strong enough to damage children’s skin during summer months,” says Hermione Lawson, from the British Skin Foundation.

“It’s important to remember here that loose clothing, a wide hat and playing in the shade during the hottest part of the day are the first lines of protection from the sun, with sunscreen being used as additional source of protection rather than the sole one. When using sun protection, we would advise using a SPF 50+ as children’s skin is more delicate and likely to burn.”

Cancer Research UK outlines, “No sunscreen, no matter how high the factor, can provide 100% protection. And no sunscreen, whether it’s factor 15 or 50, will provide the protection it claims unless it is applied properly. Therefore, it is crucial that you apply sunscreen generously and regularly.”

What about Vitamin D?

“We are unable to advise on how sun exposure is needed as a source of vitamin D as this will vary from child to child, but it’s important to use common sense here,” says Hermione. 

“The amount of sun it takes for adequate vitamin D production is much less that the amount of time it takes to burn, and there is no need to purposefully go without sunscreen on occasions when you would normally apply.”

So, sunscreen impairs UV radiation so will limit, but not stop, the production of vitamin D.

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