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We all need some sun exposure; it is our primary source of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. It is important that parents teach their children how to have fun in the sun safely.

Avoid the Strongest Rays of the Day

Seek shade when the sun is at its highest overhead and therefore strongest (usually 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.).  If children must be in the sun between these hours, be sure to apply and reapply protective sunscreen — even if they're just playing in the garden. Most sun damage occurs as a result of incidental exposure during day-to-day activities, not at the beach. Even on cloudy, cool, or overcast days, UV rays travel through the clouds and reflect off sand, water, and even concrete. Often, children are unaware that they're developing sunburn on cooler or windy days because the temperature or breeze keeps skin feeling cool on the surface.

Cover Up

Ensure that clothes will screen out harmful UV rays by placing your hand inside the garments and making sure you can't see it through them.  Because infants have thinner skin and underdeveloped melanin, their skin burns more easily than that of an older child.  If your infant must be in the sun, dress him or her in clothing that covers the body, including hats with wide brims to shadow the face. Use an umbrella to create shade.  Even older children need to escape the sun.          For all-day outdoor affairs, bring along a wide umbrella or a pop-up tent to play in.

Use Sunscreen Consistently

Lots of good sunscreens are available for children, including formulations for sensitive skin, brands with fun scents like watermelon, long-lasting waterproof and sweat-proof versions, and easy-application varieties in spray bottles.  What matters most in a sunscreen is the degree of protection from UV rays it provides. When faced with the overwhelming sea of sunscreen choices, concentrate on the SPF (sun protection factor) numbers on the labels.
For children select an SPF of 50 to prevent both sunburn and tanning. Choose a sunscreen that states on the label that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays (referred to as "broad-spectrum" sunscreen). In general, sunscreens provide better protections against UVB rays than UVA rays, making signs of skin aging a risk even with consistent use of sunscreen.

For sunscreen to do its job, it must be applied correctly. Be sure to:

  • Apply sunscreen whenever children will be in the sun.
  • Apply sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before children go outside so that a good layer of protection can form. Don't forget about lips, hands, ears, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Lift up bathing suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath them (in case the straps shift as a child moves).
  • Don't try to stretch out a bottle of sunscreen; apply it generously.
  • Reapply sunscreen often, approximately every 2 hours, or as recommended and especially after a child has been sweating or swimming.
  • Apply a waterproof sunscreen if children will be around water or swimming. Water reflects and intensifies the sun's rays, so children need protection that lasts.

Use Protective Eyewear for Kids

Sun exposure damages the eyes as well as the skin. Even 1 day in the sun can result in a burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). The best way to protect eyes is to wear sunglasses. Purchase sunglasses with labels ensuring that they provide 100% UV protection. To encourage children to wear them, let children select a style they like — many manufacturers make fun, multicoloured frames or ones embossed with cartoon characters. If you wear sunglasses regularly, your children may be willing to follow your example. Providing sunglasses early in childhood will encourage the habit of wearing them in the future.

Benefits of sunshine

Being in the sun can be very good for children. In our sedentary society, good weather encourages our children to exercise outside and enjoy outdoor activities and sports. The sun is also our easiest source of Vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium. As little as 10 minutes of exposure to sunlight provides our daily fix of Vitamin D. So, by taking a few simple precautions, our children can safely enjoy the benefits of the sun.

Cocoons policy is to bring children outdoors when the weather permits, so here is how you can help us to protect your child from the sun while in our care.  In the summer months, children should be dresses for creche in comfortable loose fitting outfits.  We would ask all parents to ensure that every child has a wide brimmed hat or legionnaire style cap to wear outdoors.  A hat that ties underneath your child’s chin may prevent them from taking it off.  Cocoon ask that all parents supply us with their Childs own individually labelled sun screen with a high UVA protection.  This is to prevent any child getting an allergic reaction to the different types of sun cream stored in the centre.

Let’s just hope we get the chance to enjoy a good Irish summer this year.