Why a little sun never hurt anyone

Parents are often quick to lather their kids in sunscreen to help protect them from the sun’s harmful rays. But before you apply, you might want to consider the important health benefits the sun provides for your child.

Kids need vitamin D
Mom and son in the sun

These tips will help you choose the best place and time to give your child some of that necessary vitamin D.

The sun and the essential vitamin D

“Dense cloud covers and high levels of air pollution can reduce the ultraviolet rays reaching the skin.” — HealthyChildren.org

Natural sunlight exposure in small amounts can be healthy for kids. Ours bodies naturally produce essential amounts of vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents that some kids are not getting enough daily sunlight — especially children living in regions with extreme seasons or dense cloud cover. Therefore it’s especially important to balance your child’s sunlight exposure and use of sunscreen if you live in these areas.

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Protecting your child’s skin in more ways than one

The AAP recommends talking to your pediatrician about finding a balance between sunscreen use and brief periods of sun exposure.

Don’t toss the sunscreen just yet! Sunscreen and smart sun coverage should still be used to protect your child from skin cancer later in life, but sunscreen can and does interfere with the positive effects from sunlight.

Sun exposure tips for kids

These tips can help maximize your child’s health and provide adequate sun protection.

  • Use sunscreen and other sun protectants between the hours of 10-4 p.m. as that’s when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the harshest.
  • Being in the shade does not adequately protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  • Wear clothing that is light-colored and tightly woven, as it will reflect the sunlight instead of absorbing it. If you choose to wear a hat, make sure the brim is at least 3 inches wide.
  • Don’t forget to protect your child’s eyes, too! According to the American Optometric Association, sunglasses can block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Your child’s individual characteristics can affect the vitamin D that he or she makes. A child with a darker pigmented skin produces less vitamin D than a child with a lighter pigment.
  • By making sunscreen part of your daily routine, your child will get in the habit of applying it and accept its purpose. Even on cloudy or snowy days, 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can reach your skin.
  • When using sunscreen, apply it to all areas of your child’s body (including face, ears and hands) and let dry for 15-30 minutes and then reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or strenuous activity.

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Where else do kids get vitamin D?

In addition to the production of vitamin D through the skin, the following foods are also good sources of vitamin D: eggs, butter, herring and salmon — but do not provide adequate amount for the daily recommended dose.

Source: AAP’s HealthyChildren.org

More about vitamin D

The importance of vitamin D for your family
Vitamin D: Best sources when the sun goes down
New vitamin D requirements for your children


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