It’s officially summertime! The sun is shining and we can’t wait for the weekend to enjoy the outdoors. But, sun safety for kids, especially in South Africa, where the sun is strong, is very important. At Petit Love, parents are always asking us what we’d recommend to protect little ones outside.
October is Cancer Awareness Month, so we chatted to Dr Barlodien Kotzé. She’s an aesthetics doctor and skin specialist, from Sculptique in Cape Town. She’s also a wonderful mother. She gives us her insights on sun safety for kids.
1. Dr Barlodien, what South African sun cream would you recommend to parents for sun safety for kids?
Intermittent, intense sun exposure in childhood and young adults is linked to skin cancer. It’s important to prevent sunburn in children. Sunscreens for kids should block UVA and UVB rays and not contain harmful ingredients. Safe ingredients are Zinc oxide and Titanium oxide. Non-nano zinc based sunscreens are the safest according to Dr Tessa Hoffmann (Dermatologist). I use Oh Lief sunscreen for my kids. It’s locally made, and in a convenient stick. Another great South African brand is the Sunumbra range.
Sunscreens for kids should block UVA and UVB rays and not contain harmful ingredients.
2. All babies have different skin shades. Do you recommend a different product for different skin types, or will this product work for all babies?
No, I would use the same product for all skin types. Kids with light coloured skin, eyes or hair and kids playing in the sun for long periods of time are more at risk for sun damage. Kids that are more at risk should apply sunscreen more frequently.
3. At what age is it safe to put sunscreen on a baby?
The natural nano-zinc products can be applied from a very early age. Babies are usually not exposed to sunlight that frequently. Babies under 6 months should avoid sun exposure. When they are exposed, it is easier to block the sun with long sleeve clothing or blankets. If sun exposure cannot be avoided then use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15.
4. For sun safety for kids, how much and how often should we apply suncream?
A generous coating of sunscreen is always a good idea. I would re-apply every 2 hours for extended periods in the sun. It is also very important to re-apply after swimming.
5. In South Africa, the sun shines most days. Is sun cream necessary in winter too?
Sun exposure is usually less in winter because time spent outside is less due to the cold weather. For sun safety for kids, I would suggest sunscreen for prolonged outside activities. Otherwise, protective clothing and hats are advisable.
6. If children are swimming, can the suns rays still be harmful?
Yes. Water is not a protection for UV rays. Use water-resistant sunscreens with SPF protection between 15 – 30. Remember to re-apply after swimming. UV protective swimwear is another great option for kids.
7. If a child gets sunburned, what should we do?
- Avoid further sun exposure
- Luke warm water when bathing with a gentle wash (no harsh soaps)
- My favourite skin soothing product is the phyto corrective serum from SkinCeuticals. It works wonders on sunburnt skin
- Keep the skin moisturized (I prefer Nutraderm or Cetaphil for kids)
- For severe burns, I would suggest burn shield in the first 24 hours and anti-inflammatory pain medication
- Make sure the child drinks enough water
8. How much Vitamin D should children be getting?
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and to control the amount of Calcium in your blood. It is essential at every stage of life, but especially important during rapid growth. Vitamin D is made in our skin by exposure to direct sunlight. At least 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure a day is needed to manufacture your daily vitamin D requirements.
Sunscreen decreases the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Few natural foods contain vitamin D, mostly oily fish and eggs. Some foods like certain margarines are fortified with vitamin D. In children with inadequate exposure to sunlight a daily maintenance dose of up to 400IU vitamin D is safe across all ages. Caltrate D chewable tablets are a good option.
Children with severe deficiencies with symptoms or certain conditions like Rickets need higher treatment doses. Higher doses will be prescribed by a doctor with simultaneous Calcium supplementation to prevent low Calcium levels.
9. Should parents increase their child’s water intake when it’s warmer?
According to Dr Elbeth Hoffman (paediatrician) there is no doubt that kids are at greater risk for dehydration than adults. Especially infants under 1 year due to their relatively large body surface area to weight. Infants should be sufficiently covered up with available shade. This will suffice to prevent insensible losses for most kids along with normal fluid intake. This includes normal breast or bottle feeding.
Warmer weather can be risky but simple emphasis on extra water intake should do the trick-for example take a bottle of cold drinking water to the beach and make sure kids drink a bit extra especially if they are thirsty. Energy drinks or high sugar content drinks are not recommended.
10. What other protective measures would you suggest for sun safety for kids?
- Remember the lips. Use a zinc oxide based lip balm to protect your child’s lips
- Don’t forget about protective clothing. There are great ranges that provide SPF protection against UVA and UVB rays
- Encourage wide-brimmed hats to protect ears, face and back of the neck
- When playing outside encourage kids to play in the shade or provide umbrellas to play under
- Sunglasses are important even for kids. Look out for shades that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection
- Avoid sun exposure when the rays are the strongest (mid-day). Try to plan outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon
Cover: Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. from Pexels