There are three steps you can take to protect your child from the sun: shade, clothes and cream.
This is the most important step. As far as possible, avoid being in the direct sun between 10am and 4pm from April to September in the UK. Keep your child in the shade if outside.
This is the second most important step. As far as possible, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved tops, long shorts or skirts and sunhats when out in the sun. Sunhats should ideally cover the ears and neck as well as shade the face. For all children, dark coloured clothes give more protection.
Special UV-protective clothing is available. This is particularly useful for swimming out of doors or for the beach.
This is the third most important step and should not be used in place of steps one and two. Put a high factor suncream (SPF 25 or higher) on the areas not covered by clothes. In particular, pay attention to the nose and upper cheeks. If your child’s sunhat does not cover his or her neck, ears and forehead, then cover those with cream too. Don’t forget to put suncream on your child’s feet if he or she is wearing sandals.
Buy suncream that has a high star rating (measured out of five stars) as this gives good protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Remember to use water-resistant creams if swimming or sweating a lot, and to reapply any suncream every few hours.
Remember that suncream alone does not give enough protection against UV damage.
Frequently asked questions
Why do children need protection from the sun?
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage our skin. This can cause sunburn in the short term and cancer in the longer term. Children are particularly at risk from UV damage for two reasons:
- They spend more time outdoors.
- Their skin is more sensitive.
Do all children need sun protection?
Yes. Some children are more at risk from UV damage than others, but all children are at risk so should have proper protection.
Is there a risk of sun damage on a cloudy day?
Yes. Eighty per cent of UV rays come through clouds. In addition, there is no shade on a cloudy day.
Does sun protection stop my child making enough vitamin D?
UV rays do stimulate the body to make vitamin D. At the moment, there is not enough evidence to know whether sun protection reduces this.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: January 2008
Ref: 2007F142 © GOSH Trust January 2008
Compiled by the Dermatology department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.