Australia is the melanoma capital of the world and the enormous amount of scare campaign advertising regarding tanning has done it’s job so well that our kids are now showing signs of Vitamin D deficiencies due to lack of sun exposure.
It seems that we have gone way too far the other way. I believe that in most cases a little sensible sun exposure for our kids can actually help them build a natural resistance (tan) to the sun’s harmful effects as well as absorbing all the health benefits sunlight has to offer.
The leading theory regarding tanning is that skin colour adapts to intense sunlight irradiation to provide partial protection to the skin cells. So is tanning skin cells in trauma or the bodies way to naturally protect itself from harmful UV radiation?
Before I say anything I will once again lather myself with a sunscreen of disclaimers about all kids being different and in particular everyone having a different skin type and that you should never, ever let yourself or anyone else get sun burnt.
In addition, as the Australian sun is particularly harsh I would make a blanket recommendation for EVERYONE to slip, slop, slap and try to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm during summer unless you really do want to become another skin cancer statistic.
The best form of protection we found for our bub for was shade, shade, shade. Keeping an infant out of the sun at all times is essential and this can be achieved fairly easily when they are confined to a pram or bassinet with the use of the pram covers and some kind of shade cloth.
I did find (annoyingly) that most pram covers do not provide adequate shade particularly in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is at an angle.
When kiddies are older and on the move in becomes a little more difficult. We didn’t really like the idea of smothering her with sunscreen all the time but being outdoor people we didn’t really have a choice.
The best that we could do was cover her in the most natural SPF 30 sunscreen that we could find that didn’t contain things like mineral oils and parabens as we feel that some of these nasties will always be absorbed through the skin .
We also found hats with elastic straps (she would not keep her hat on voluntarily) that we could tie on and another cap made from Lycra with a flap at the back that she could wear in the water.
In addition whenever we went swimming she wore a short arm short leg rash vest that has an SPF of about 50. You can find these in most department or sports stores or even the Cancer Council shop.
This year we are trying to use the same approach we do for ourselves of a little bit of sun every day in the early morning or late afternoon (before 11am and after 3pm).
Like us, our toddler has olive skin and we would ideally like to slowly build a natural protection (tan) with a limited amount of daily exposure avoiding the hottest times of the day. If it’s a bright spring day at nine in the morning then why not get a bit of sun on your head? Vitamin D is good for you
This is best done before summer really hits as once it gets too hot your toddlers’ unaccustomed skin will fry like an egg in any exposure to the summer sun. Not good. Not good at all.
We will start around September and hopefully by the time we are regularly going to the beach or pool (around December) she will have built up enough natural protection (tan) to give her some extra protection from the sun.
We will still continue to use hats, shirts and sunscreens but the addition of some of the skins’ natural protection makes us feel a little safer.
Sun and Vitamin D are essential in the healthy development of bones as well as providing a natural feeling of well being. As we are outdoor lovers it stands to reason that our bub will get a fair amount of sun exposure as well.
The important thing here is not to let your childs’ skin (or your own) burn at all as that is when serious, long term damage is caused so don’t ever leave your baby unprotected in the sun.
REPEAT: NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR BABY IN THE SUN !
Personally, I think a little bit of sun exposure is a good thing so long as it is in moderation and done sensibly. We do not ever want our little one to burn but equally we do not want her to fear the sun and avoid all of it’s life giving qualities.
We would like her to enjoy the great climate, beaches and outdoors that make Australia such a great place to grow up.
Tan is OK. Burn is bad….