June 01, 2017

Safe in the Sun: Protecting Your Little One From Harmful UV Rays

Sunny days are perfect to share the beauty of the great outdoors with your child while getting valuable exercise for both yourself and baby. Whether it’s crawling on a picnic blanket or climbing on a play structure at the park, sun safety is an important consideration for any parent who takes their child outdoors.

Protecting Your Baby

The delicate skin of babies and young toddlers can burn quickly and easily under the bright New Zealand sun, and even a quick trip outdoors requires both clothing protection (sunhat and thin, long sleeves) and sunscreen. Unfortunately, skin cancer exists as one of the most common cancers in New Zealand and can develop as a direct result of deep and repetitive sunburns as a child. Aside from the serious health risks, sunburns are extremely uncomfortable for babies and small children who are already dealing with the uncomfortable processes of teething and weaning.

Melanoma Rates

New Zealand is saddled with the highest rates of melanoma in the world due to an environment with exposure to harmful UVR (ultraviolet radiation), and the numbers keep climbing with diagnoses rates doubling in the last 30 years. Due to these staggering statistics, the NZ Cancer Society advises keeping infants out of the sun from September to April, between 10am and 4pm whenever possible, in order to avoid harmful rays and possible sunstroke. However, if your baby is accompanying you on errands and exposure is unavoidable, following these tips will keep your child safe in the sun:

  • Play and stay in the shade.This isn’t a foolproof way to avoid exposure, as UV rays can bounce off of surfaces such as water, concrete and sand - so don’t avoid putting sunscreen on your little one just because you can’t feel the heat!
  • Rash top swimming attire.These “UV shirts” can be worn over your child’s swimsuit for greater protection.
  • Wear sunscreen!Does your child’s sunscreen have AS/NZS on the label? If not, then the product does not meet Australian/New Zealand sunscreen standards. Remain cautious about applying sunscreen to babies under one year of age (as a mild rash may develop,) but for older children water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen applied every two hours is an effective preventative measure.
  • Early Treatment/Annual Checkups.While no parent wants to entertain the idea of their child developing a serious condition such as skin cancer, as with any medical affliction the sooner it’s spotted, the easier it is to treat. Annual checkups at your child’s dermatologist can provide much-needed assurance that no melanomas are developing.

Summer activities can provide parents and children with long-lasting memories, full of sunlight, laughter and blue skies. However, it is imperative that parents take special care to ensure their baby or toddler’s delicate skin isn’t irrevocably damaged by failing to adhere to sun-safety guidelines.