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Ask a Childbirth Educator (February 2022)

“It’s such a lovely summer this year – and I’m worried about sun exposure, using sunblock, etc. for my child?”

In New Zealand, we know that our sun is harsh and as adults, most of us have been bought up with the slogan ‘slip, slop, slap and wrap’; we can feel when we’re getting burnt and move away or cover up, and usually remember to keep our hats on in the sun.  Our babies and children can’t or aren’t always as mindful of this.  They head out of the house with a hat securely on the head to play in the sand pit, the hat falls off and more often than not it stays off until an adult gives the ‘hat reminder’.

Ideally keeping youngsters out of the direct sun is the best protection.  It is important to be aware though, that even in the shade during the hottest part of the day (which is between 10am and 4pm), sun rays can be of concern, as it can be reflected off surfaces such as toys, water, concrete and sand.  Keeping shoulders covered and hats on is still important in the shade.

And so what about sunscreen, because let’s face it once your child is mobile, they’re not going to stay sitting out of the sun!  The Cancer Society of New Zealand recommend being cautious with sunscreen under the age of one, and that the best protection is to keep them in the shade.  However, they go on to say that if your child does need to be in the sun, ensure you use a minimum of SPF30 + broad spectrum* sunscreen which is water resistant.  It should meet the Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard (AS/NZS2604:1998), which is labelled on the pack.  Sunscreen does expire, (there’ll be an expiry date on the pack) and keeps best when stored out of the sun and stored in less than 25 degrees.  Ideally apply in the shade 15 minutes before going into the sun to ensure it is absorbed well. 

Baby’s skin is thinner and more sensitive, and harsh exposure in those early years increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.  The ol’ slip, slop, slap and wrap slogan is still so relevant and more important than ever

* Sunscreen labelled ‘broad spectrum’ filters out some UVB and UVA radiation – both of which contribute to skin aging, sunburn, eye damage and skin cancer.

References

https://cancernz.org.nz/assets/Sunsmart/Information-sheets/IS-babies-toddlers-15Aug2012.pdf

https://www.huggies.co.nz/baby-care/skin-care/sun/sunscreen

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