Updated 14 May 2014

Protect your child from winter sun

When the temperatures start to drop, it’s easy to forget that the winter sun is just as dangerous and harmful to skin. Here's how to protect your child during the next few months.

In summer, the heat of the sun is often enough of a reminder for mums to keep their children indoors or in the shade and if they're in the sun, to cover them with sun-cream and hats.

However, once the temperature starts to drop, it’s easy to forget that the winter sun is just as dangerous and harmful to skin. We're exposed to harmful UV rays throughout the year and it's vital to take measures to protect your baby’s sensitive skin – no matter what the season.

Skin cancer on the increase
The prevalence of skin cancer is rising each year and it's seen more often in younger people.

In South Africa, 197 per 100 000 people are affected by skin cancer annually and children are especially at risk for sun damage since they build up 50% to 80% of their lifetime’s sun exposure before the age of 18. In addition, babies are particularly sensitive to UV radiation and heat as they have thinner skin.

South Africa and Australia have the world's highest skin-cancer rates.

Baby skin exceptionally delicate
When born, a baby’s skin is not as resistant as adult skin, and is up to 10 times thinner. A baby's skin is essentially sterile at birth and takes a while to develop a pH of 5.5, which provides a natural acidic protective barrier.

Your baby’s skin is exceptionally delicate and can dehydrate easily, particularly when exposed to the heat and sun. That's why it's important to use a baby cream that protects against noxious substances, soothes the skin and replaces moisture.

In addition to helping your baby develop a healthy skin and pH 5.5 balance, it's vital to protect your baby from harmful UV rays. One of the most effective ways is to use a good sun cream with a high SPF factor. It's vital to apply the cream regularly on exposed parts of the body to prevent sun damage.

If you find your baby’s skin reacts to the cream, try a sun cream that has been developed for sensitive skins.

Protect those peepers
The skin isn't the only organ at risk of being damaged by UV rays – eyes are particularly at risk when exposed to glare for a period of time. Bright reflections off shiny surfaces like sand, water and vehicles can subject the eyes to nearly 12 times more light than needed. The sun's UV rays are intensified as they are reflected and can easily damage the surface of the eye.

Spending too much time where there is a lot of glare, without adequate eye protection, can result in a short-term condition known as photokeratitis, or reversible sunburn of the cornea. This condition damages the cornea and causes eye pain, extreme sensitivity to light and the sensation of having sand in your eye.

Children are particularly vulnerable to extended exposure to UV as the lenses in their eyes don't block as much UV radiation as an adult’s do, increasing their risk of eye damage significantly.

In order to prevent damage to your baby’s eyes and skin, it's essential to provide protection with suitable eye and head gear.

Research has shown that exposure to solar radiation is the cause of eye cancer. It’s important to equip your baby with sunglasses that offer UV protection in order to protect their eyes from damage.

- (The lime envelope, updated May 2009)




Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Mental health & your work »

How open are you about mental illness in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace – what you can do to help

If you know that one of your colleagues suffers from a mental illness, would you be able to help them at work? Maligay Govender offers some helpful mental health "first aid" tips.

Sleep & You »

Sleep vs. no sleep Diagnosis of insomnia

6 things that are sabotaging your sleep

Kick these shut-eye killers to the kerb and make your whole life better – overnight.