One of the commonly overlooked parts of baby care in India is the protection of our young ones from the Sun. Well, they say 90% of urban Indian population is deficient in Vitamin D. And VItamin D is synthesised by our body when it exposed to sunlight. So clearly we are not stepping out in the Sun that often. So, why worry about protection from the Sun?
Read on to know why it is important to protect kids from the harmful effects of the Sun and ways to achieve it.
Babies are sensitive to sunlight
For a newborn baby, morning sunlight is recommended in the early days of the life to prevent the occurrence of baby jaundice. Similarly, regular exposure in the Sun is useful to ensure kids gets enough sunlight for optimum Vitamin D synthesis.
Okay, am I confusing you? If sunlight is important then why do we need to protect our kids? Because the Sun’s UV radiation, which consists of UVA and UVB radiations, can cause premature ageing of the skin, tanning, sunburn or skin cancer. See/click the following snapshot for details about harmful effects of UVA and UVB radiation:
Babies have thinner outer skin compared to adults. Also, they have lesser Melanin pigments compared to adults. Melanin is helpful to protect skin from Sun’s UV radiation. As a child grows, the skin becomes thicker and produces more melanin to protect from the effects of UV radiation. The UV radiation also suppresses the skin’s immune system.
Since babies have less protective skin compared to adults, they need to be protected from the harmful effect of sunlight.
Harmful effects of UV radiation in early childhood
There are studies which show that early age exposure to sun and the sunburns can potentially increase the chances of skin cancer in adulthood. Experts believe that less protective skin in the early childhood or the suppression of the immune system due to exposure to UV radiation may be the reasons for this.
How to protect kids from the harmful effects of sunlight
Many people believe that a dark skin tone does not require protection from sunlight. A darker skin tone means more melanin and hence better protection from sunlight’s UV radiation. It does not mean immunity from UV radiation. It means longer time for getting a sunburn and lesser intensity of a burn. But if exposed for long hours, even dark skin tone can suffer skin burns. Even an exposure for 30-60 minutes can cause tanning.
The geography affects the effect of UV radiation. Generally at low latitude (as you approach equator), at higher altitude (mountains & hills), and around reflective surfaces like snow/ice, water and sand, the effect of sunlight can be more distinct.
So if you and your baby are nearer to the equator, or going for vacation to mountains, beaches or even colder snowy places, you need to ensure a protective regime from the harsh sunlight.
Following are the recommended ways to protect a baby from sunlight:
Protecting babies less than 6 months of age from UV radiation:
- Avoid direct sunlight when its intensity is highest, usually around 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Avoid applying sunscreen as the skin is less protective
- If unavoidable to step out during peak UV radiation hours:
- Wear protective clothing covering limbs & head
- Remain in the shade or use sun shield where possible
Protecting babies above 6 months of age from UV radiation:
- Avoid child’s exposure to sunlight between 10:00 am – 4:00 pm when the UV radiation effect is the strongest
- Wear lightweight breathable clothes covering limbs & head when stepping out in the Sun
- Apply sunscreen to exposed skin during sun exposure and reapply every few hours
- Remain in the shade or use a protective shield (including eyewear) where possible
Get the benefits of the sunlight in a safe way
Sunlight is vital for the natural Vitamin D synthesis. As well as for various other health benefits. To get the best of this abundantly available sunlight in India, prefer to take your kids out during the morning hours. At such times, you can avoid sunscreen, especially when you are stepping out only for a few minutes. A 5-30 minutes of exposure to sunlight without sunscreen (the darker the skin tone, or less strong sunlight, the more exposure required), even 2-3 times a week can provide adequate Vitamin D.
Regular exposure to the sunlight has health benefits for your child. But protect your child from the harmful effects of Sun’s UV radiation by taking protective steps.