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BMI St Edmunds: Tips to keep your children safe in the sunshine

10:51 09 July 2014

Advice on how to keep children safe in the sun

Advice on how to keep children safe in the sun


Holidays in the sun can be a testing time for parents as they have to judge how long to let their children play out in the sun.

Dr Nevianna Tomson is a consultant dermatologist at BMI St Edmunds Hospital and spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists. Here she provides 10 top tips on how to keep your children safe in the sun.

1. Children are better protected from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing long-sleeved clothes (trousers, long skirts, long-sleeved tops) made of closely woven material. Natural fibres such as cotton are best, as the material breaths easily and keeps children cool.

2. Always make sure children wear a hat, preferably a broad-brimmed hat to protect the ears and back of the neck as well.

3. I always advise the use of sunscreen creams and lotions with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or even higher, as SPF30 is generally considered to give reasonable protection. My guide to sunscreens may help with this.

4. Remember, plaster it on and keep topping it up. When sunscreens are tested in a controlled laboratory environment, they are applied very generously – to an extent where the skin is white because of the amount of the sunscreen used.

When your child is playing in the sun some will rub off, some will be washed away by sweat and, of course, much will be lost if they do go in the water. Therefore, it is important to reapply sunscreen regularly to their skin.

5. Sunscreens should be reapplied to all sun exposed areas of skin every two or three hours and more frequently if children are swimming or playing in water. Ideally, even so-called water-resistant sun creams and lotion should be reapplied regularly.

6. Children’s skin is thinner and more delicate, and therefore it can be penetrated by chemicals more easily. Sunscreens specifically designed for children are the best for your child’s skin.

7. Buy your kids long trunks or long-sleeved swimsuits to give them more protection in the water. Even then, it is advisable to limit them to 30-60minutes at a time and then taking them back in the shade.

8. It is also important to remember to protect eyes against the sun. Remember to get your children (and yourself) sunglasses with certified UV protection.

9. The sunlight is strongest between 11am and 3pm so it is best to avoid playing or swimming in the direct sunlight between these times. As they say in Australia “Between eleven and three, hide under a tree”.

10. Consider playing in shaded areas or – do what the locals do – Siesta! A little midday nap would also help you feel refreshed throughout your holidays.

A guide to sunscreen shopping:

When choosing a sunscreen, make sure you check the UVA start rating as well as the SPF (sun protection factor). Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is transmitted in 3 forms UVA, UVB and UVC.

UVC radiation cannot penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and so does not reach our skin. Therefore, we only need to protect our skin from UVA and UVB.

In general, UVA is the one associated with skin ageing – which gives you wrinkles, leathery skin and brown spots, and UVB is the one that causes sunburn and skin cancer.

When you buy sunscreen, it will be labelled with a SPF and a UVA star rating. The SPF is on a scale of 6 to 50+ with SPF 6 to 14 providing the least amount of protection against burning and skin cancer, and 50+ having the strongest protection from UVB.

The UVA star rating ranges from 0 to 5. The British Association of Dermatologists ( recommends using a sunscreen with SPF 30 and a UVA star rating of 4 to 5 as a good level of protection.

If you are going to swim in the sun, it is also important that the sunscreen you use is labelled as water-resistant so it does not wash off easily. However, you will still need to reapply it after bathing to ensure you have adequate protection throughout the day.


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