Whilst maintaining an active lifestyle in our warm, tropical climate is healthy, many of us are forgetting the importance of ensuring and maintaining sun safety. As part of our upcoming celebration for child protection week in May, the National Council for Children are raising awareness about a variety of issues relating to safety, and what this means.
When we talk about what it means to be safe, we are not only talking about protecting the physical and emotional well-being of our children, but also protecting the health of our children.
Despite the importance of outdoor play, and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle for health and development, we have come to notice that the concept of being ‘sun safe’ is not being adopted within our culture and lifestyle. This is concerning given that our lifestyle predominantly includes the enjoyment of a range of activities such as swimming, snorkeling, fishing and boating – all of which results in exposure to the sun. Too often we see children playing in the school grounds, outdoors and at the beach with little to no sun protection. Children have little awareness of the importance of wearing hats, and sunscreen whilst playing outside and this is worrying.
Research shows that most kids get most of their lifetime of sun exposure before they reach the age of 18. Because of this, it’s important for parents to understand the dangers associated with too much sun exposure, and strategies we can use to safely enjoy the warm outdoors.
We now know with 100% certainty that excessive exposure to ultra violet (UV) rays can cause damage to the skin and eyes, leading to various types of skin cancers and eye diseases. As human beings, scientist report that we are able to withstand UV rays up to the level of 3, after which we require protection. Most warm climates reach UV radiation levels up to 13. Because we can’t see or feel UV, we often forget about the damage that it can cause, and the possible long term health affects we can experience as a result of prolonged exposure.
Our sunlight contains three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. Fortunately, the most dangerous, UVC rays are blocked by our atmosphere; however both UVA and UVB penetrate our atmosphere and our skin, leading to wrinkling, premature aging, sunburns and eye damage. In many cases, skins cancer also results. Many countries around the world are adopting the idea of sun safety, and encouraging parents and children to adopt practices that prevent prolonged exposure to the damaging effects of the sun. The idea of ‘SLIP, SLOP SLAP’ teaches children to cover their body by SLIPPING on a shirt, SLOPPING on sunscreen and SLAPPING on a hat whilst being in the sun.
We all require some sunlight every day in order to gain our vitamin D for healthy bone development. Despite this, Scientists recommend that we limit our exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day, from 10.00 to 3.00pm. Extra protection from the sun is also recommended for those who live near the equator, as this is where the sun is strongest. According to Seychelles UV index readings, the peak hours of high to very high UV radiation is from 9am to 4pm. Reflective sunlight from water or concrete can also cause us harm, as we may not realize that we are being burnt directly.
The best way to be ‘sun safe’ is to follow these simple steps:
- SLIP on clothing that covers your skin when out in the sun. Loose fitting shirts that are darker in colour will provide more protection for your skin.
- SLOP on sunscreen of SPF 30 or more. Ensure that the sunscreen is broad spectrum (meaning that is prevents both UVA and UVB rays) and water resistant if swimming is involved. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun, and re-apply every 2 hours or after swimming.
- SLAP on a hat, making sure that it proves shade over the face, ears, and back of neck. Bucket or wide-brimmed hats are the best. Baseball caps do not cover the ears, and back of neck and therefore not recommended.
- If able, try and stay in the shade, particularly with babies and young children who have thinner skin and burn easily. Whilst there are sunscreens available for babies, it is recommended that the best form of protection for young children and babies are clothing and shade as some sunscreen can cause irritation.
- Whenever possible, wear sunglasses to protect the eyes. Exposure to UV rays can lead to burned cornea and long term exposure can lead to cataracts later in life. Ensure that the sunglasses you wear have adequate protection against UV.
Being sun safe is not a difficult task. By being good role models for our children, and adopting the sun safe principles of SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, we can reduce the harmful effects of sun exposure and limiting the long term health impacts for ourselves and our children.
Source : Seychelles NATION