Enjoy (safe) fun in the sun with your children this summer

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The days are getting warmer and longer, and the sun is shining brightly. Many of you are probably planning summer adventures for your families, which include soaking up fun and some rays from the sun. As parents, you can help your children learn how to be sun safe by making it fun and by being good role models.

DYK: Unprotected days in the sun or just one blistering sunburn during childhood can raise the risk of skin cancer later in life. Ultraviolet rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps.

UV rays can’t be seen or felt, but can penetrate and change skin cells. Babies and young children have sensitive skin that can burn easily. People with fair skin, light blue or green eyes, blond or red hair and freckles are more at risk.

Tips to enjoy the sun safely with your children

Limit your time in the sun when the UV index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., between April and September.

  • A UV protective tent or pop-up shade shelter, umbrella or resting under a big tree — all provide adequate shade from the sun’s rays. Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight by using a canopy or umbrella over your baby’s stroller to give shade.
  • Additional personal protection (clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen) is recommended even when in the shade to protect against scattered UV rays, especially on high UV index days.

Wear protective clothing:

  • that covers as much skin as possible or is UV-protective.
  • that includes a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap with flaps that cover the head, neck and ears.

Apply sunscreen:

  • with SPF 30 or more, labelled “broad spectrum” and “water-resistant.”
  • reapply when needed (especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off).
  • use a sunscreen lip balm.
  • only on babies over six months of age; avoid the mouth and eye areas.
  • generously and by following the directions on the container.
  • check the expiry date; if it’s out of date, replace it with a new one.

There are many sunscreens available, including for babies over 6 months and people with sensitive skin. Before using sunscreen, test it on a small area of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction.

Choose sunglasses:

  • that are close fitting/wraparound, with UV 400 or 100% UV protection.
  • for children and babies, choose sunglasses that are unbreakable.

Helping your child learn about sun protection means teaching them at an early age. Children learn best while having fun!

*Don’t forget to do the Shadow Test; a simple test to help determine when it’s time to seek shade. If the child’s shadow is shorter than they are, the sun’s rays are strong and they should limit their time in the sun by playing in the shade.

Remember: children see and do what adults do. If you are sun safe, they will be too. So slather on the sunscreen, enjoy your summer and have fun in the sun!

Do you have more questions?

There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa:

  • Speak with a Public Health Nurse. Call 613-PARENTS (TTY: 613-580-9656)
  • EmailParentinginOttawa@ottawa.ca
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on our Facebook page
  • Visit with a Public Health Nurse at one of the Parenting in Ottawa Drop-ins

Lyne Gillespie, RN, is a public health nurse with Ottawa Public Health.