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Keeping Kids Safe in the Sun

Sun safety for our kids really depends on our vigilance as parents, and on our determination to instill sun safe habits in our children while they are young. A generation or two ago, a sunburn was hardly taken seriously; it was considered a temporary inconvenience only. This view was also evidenced by the fact that there were very few sun safe products on the market apart from a basic sunscreen.

But should sunburn be more of a concern, especially for children? How serious is it really? A very light or mild case of sunburn may not seem very alarming, but severe sunburn is serious indeed, especially for young children. Little ones are completely unaware, of course, of how sensitive their tender young skin is to the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. A child playing in the sunshine, perhaps on the beach engrossed in sandcastle building, or enjoying a splash in a paddle pool on a hot summer day is too pre-occupied with fun to know to seek shade every twenty minutes or so. A responsible adult caregiver needs to be on hand to prevent sunburn in vulnerable children. The fact that sunscreen was applied an hour before is not enough protection.

Places on our earth that are closer to the poles than to the equator receive a higher amount of UV radiation, even if the temperature is no higher than a more equatorial location. This exposure can be deceptive, as burns can be experienced on even cloudy days when the UV register is high to extreme.

As an example, a generation ago a six-year-old boy lying on his stomach on a beach towel during the summer holidays in Australia slept the afternoon away. By the time he was looked for towards evening, he had sustained heat-stroke, was dehydrated and delirious, and so badly sunburned that large blisters formed, even on the soles of his feet. The boy was taken to hospital and recovered, but the incident shows the serious results of just a few hours of neglect.

Sunburn is as serious as any other type of burn, and our children need protecting. Make a habit of giving them easy rules to learn, like "No hat, no play", or "Between 11 and 3, get under a tree." Always use a high protection 50+ SPF water resistant sunscreen and wide brimmed hats on children. Thankfully today most parents are more aware of sun safety children kids, and there is a whole range of products available to help shield our little ones.

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