Published: Wednesday 05 May 2021

Many people have now heard of the Australian saying “Slip, slop, slap” - slip on a t-shirt, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat - adopted in many other countries and an easy mantra for children to remember.

Children are very susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun; their skin is literally thinner the younger they are. A baby's skin is about a fifth of the thickness of an adult's and can burn in as little as ten minutes. Research has shown that six episodes of serious sunburn before the age of 18 doubles the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.

So how can you make sun-time safer? Here are our eight top tips for keeping children safe in the sun.

Use sunscreen with a high protection factor, preferably with SPF 30+ Apply it 15-30 minutes before going outside so that it has a chance to be absorbed by the skin and apply again once outside. Remember: even waterproof sun cream can wash off so apply frequently. Coloured sun cream may help as you can see where it’s going and it can be fun for children.

Keep babies out of direct sunlight as they can burn and overheat very quickly. Place pushchairs in the shade and, whenever possible, use a sunshade. Be warned that using a blanket over a pram or pushchair can be dangerous as it can increase the heat inside the pushchair and overheat your baby.

Take shade. Sun tents and large umbrellas for the beach can be a great source of shade for babies and children. Hats are great for protecting little heads. Be aware that shade can be lost as the sun moves so try to find somewhere that will allow you to move round with the sun. Also bear this in mind when travelling in the car: sun visors can be useful when attached to windows.

Watch out on cloudy days as UV rays can travel through cloud. This is deceptive so be vigilant.

Dress children with cool, close-weave baggy clothing. Cotton and linen are especially suitable - and remember wet clothing can lose up to half of its UV protection. Look into the different children’s swimwear and sun suit options on offer. These can cover up very well and often offer an ultra-violet protection factor (UPF) of 50+. It is still advisable to apply sun cream beneath clothing.

Put hats on to avoid sunstroke which can be brought on when the head is overheated, even if the rest of you is covered up with a t-shirt and sunscreen. For children, the legionnaire-style hat with the piece of cloth that covers the back of the neck is ideal. If the ‘sun has got his hat on’ then so should they!

Avoid the sun between 11am and 3 pm whether abroad or in the UK. This is when the sun is at its strongest ultraviolet levels.

Teach children about the importance of avoiding sunburn and keeping safe in the shade, so that having fun in the summer time can be safe for everyone.

If you are concerned in any way about the health of your child after being in the sun please seek medical advice.

The British Association of Dermatologists also publish great advice about keeping skin safe in the sun. Here's their tips for protecting the younger, more sensitive skin of babies and young children.

Looking to get your first aid skills as a parent up to speed? To Baby and Beyond offer a range of first aid for parents courses, including an online learn-from-home option, a selection of open course dates, (when Covid restrictions allow; check the website for updates) an in-house bespoke option (perhaps for a group of friends), as well options for childcare professionals. Locations include Brighton and Hove and Angmering in Sussex.

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