Children have sensitive skin that is particularly vulnerable to the sun’s harsh UV radiation. It’s not just about avoiding a bad sunburn – overexposure to UV radiation during the first 18 years can greatly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Follow the tips below to stay SunSmart this summer and protect your child’s skin!
1. Check the UV before you go out for the day
The UV index indicates the strength of UV radiation reaching the ground. A UV level of three and above can cause damage to unprotected skin.
The UV Index (not the temperature) should be used to guide whether sun protection is required for outdoor activities. In Western Australia, UV levels reach levels of 3 or above for on nearly every day of the year, even in the most southerly parts of the state. In summer, the UV reaches extreme levels nearly every day. Being aware of times when UV is 3 and above can help you plan your activities and ensure your child is adequately protected.
2. Avoid sun exposure for babies under 12 months
A baby’s skin is thin, extremely sensitive and can burn easily. Babies under 12 months should not be exposed to direct sun when the UV Index is three or above.
Try to keep your baby out of the sun and well protected with clothing, a hat and shade.
3. Schedule your outdoor activities for when UV is low
Schedule your outdoor activities when the UV is lower, such as early mornings or evenings. This can be difficult during summer if UV remains high throughout the day. So, if you are heading outside with your child in the middle of the day, ensure you make maximum use of shade, sunscreen, hats and protective clothing.
4. Choose protective clothing
Clothing provides a physical barrier between UV and the sun and is one of the most effective ways to protect your child’s skin. Try to select clothing that covers as much of your child’s skin as possible, for example, long-sleeve shirts with a high neckline and long pants.
Our summers can get hot, so you can select loose fitting clothes that still allow freedom for your child to move and air to circulate. Natural fibres like cotton are also cooler to wear.
For outdoor swimming, ensure your child wears a long sleeve rashie to protect their arms and torso, and longer style swimmers like boardies.
When buying new items, you can check if it has a swing tag with a UPF rating. These fabrics have been tested to determine how effective they are at blocking UV radiation.
5. Choose hats over caps
Choose a broad-brimmed or bucket style hat that protects your child’s face, neck and ears. Caps are not recommended as the ears, sides of the face and neck are still exposed to the sun.
6. Apply SPF50+ sunscreen
Sunscreens should be used to protect areas of the body where physical protection provided by hats and clothing is not adequate.
When applying sunscreen on your child:
- Select one that is broad spectrum, water resistant and SPF50+
- Apply it liberally to cover their skin
- Apply it 20 minutes before going outside
- Reapply every two hours
Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under the age of 6 months. For older infants, keep out of the sun and well protected with clothing, then sunscreen only needs to be used occasionally on very small areas of their skin. Choose a sunscreen formulated for infants such as a sensitive or toddler sunscreen. These are just as protective, but much gentler on their skin.
7. Find a shady spot or bring your own shade
When heading out during the day, try to find a shady spot under buildings or trees. The shade should be as large as possible. If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of shade, make sure to bring your own shade, such as a beach tent or umbrella.
Remember that UV can reflect off surrounding surfaces, so you should still use other sun protection measures.
8. Choose sunglasses that meet Australian standards
Children should also wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. Sunglasses sold in Australia must comply with Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067.
Be wary of sunglasses sold as toys as these may not meet Australian standards.
Don’t forget your own sun protection. Role modelling wearing sunscreen, hats and sun protective clothing like rashies will not only reduce your own risk of skin cancers, but also help to encourage children to be SunSmart.
For more information
- Staying SunSmart this summer, visit the SunSmart webpage.
- Read more about the difference between SPF30 and SPF50.
- find your local UV levels at: