Child Safety in the Sun

Make the most of sunny days with your children, but always keep them protected from the sun.

Children and babies have very sensitive skin which can burn easily.  The National Cancer Control Programme warns us that getting a painful sunburn in childhood can double the risk of developing skin cancer in later life, particularly melanoma - the most serious form of skin cancer.  

There are very simple steps you can take to protect your child, so please take action now and follow the advice of the Irish Cancer Society:

  • Take care whether you are in Ireland or abroad - UV damage from Irish weather is just as harmful as that from warmer climates.
  • Take care on cloudy days too – up to 90% of UV rays can pass through light cloud.
  • Protect your child from the Sun
  • Keep babies under 6 months in the shade and dress them in loose-fitting outfits with long sleeves and long shorts. Make sure they are made from close-woven material that does not allow sunlight through.
  • Keep older children safe by following the SunSmart Code:
    • Slip on sun protective clothing
    • Slap on a hat - a wide brim that gives shade to the face, neck and ears
    • Slop on sunscreen:
      • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB with a minimum of SPF 30 (protects against UVB) and look for these signs uva  or uva rating for UVA protection.  
      • For best protection apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours and always after swimming.  This applies to “waterproof” and “water-resistant” products as well.
      • Don’t forget to cover all exposed areas especially the face, ears, nose, lips and tops of the feet.
      • Skin irritation may occur with the use of sunscreen. Try sunscreen for sensitive skin which will help with this. 
      • No sunscreen gives 100% protection.  So use it with the other parts of the SunSmart Code.  
      • Sunscreen use on babies under 6 months is not harmful on small areas of a baby’s skin but babies under 6 months should be kept in the shade.
    • Seek shade – especially between 11 a.m and 3 p.m.
    • Slide on sunglasses - wrap-around are best - make sure they give as close to 100% UV protection as possible.  Wear wrap-around sunglasses from as early an age as possible.  Choose sunglasses that meet the I.S. EN 1836 standard.
    • Share this information with everyone who looks after your children.
  • Check the UV index in your area - this is a guide to how sunsmart you need to be to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
  • Remember that up to 90% of UV rays can pass through light clouds - so you need to take care on cloudy days too.
  • To develop healthy bones and teeth, make sure your baby gets vitamin D - the "sunshine vitamin". Whether you choose to breastfeed or formula feed your baby you should give your baby 5 micrograms (5µg) of vitamin D3 every day. Find out more here.
  • When the weather is hot, make sure you and your child drink plenty of cool drinks.
  • Keep an eye on your children's clothing, hats & sunglasses throughout the day - make sure they continue to wear each each item!  
  • Watch the shade - remember the moving sun means that you may have to move to keep in the shade.
What is UV radiation?

Most cases of skin cancer are caused by Ultraviolet (UV) radiation which comes from the sun.

  • UVA makes up most of the UV that reached the earth surface. It reaches the deeper layer of the skin causing skin ageing, eye damage and skin cancer.
  • UVB is mostly absorbed by the Ozone layer and other substances before it reaches the earth’s surface. It causes sunburn and is the major cause of skin cancer.
  • UVC is mostly filtered before it reaches the earth by the Ozone layer and other substances.  Problems can arise if the Ozone layer is thin, such as is the case over Australia.  Some UVC can then reach the earth surface and increase the risk of those exposed to it to skin cancer.

    Source: Irish Cancer Society

    Facts about tanning:
    1. A tan does not protect skin from burning.
    2. A tan is the skin’s way of trying to protect itself from further UV damage.
    3. Even when a tan fades, skin damage caused by tanning never goes away and builds up over the years which can lead to skin cancer.

    Source: Irish Cancer Control Programme

    Get more detailed information:
    Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:

    Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
    Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger

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