Children and Sun Exposure


When the sun's out on a nice day, children naturally want to spend more time outdoors.  There is a sense of freedom with outdoor play, and many indoor activities take on an entirely new dimension when played outdoors.  But with the warmer weather comes sunshine, and family members must remain alert to some of the special health and safety concerns that accompany the sunny days of summer.

All skin, no matter what colour, responds to sun exposure.  In addition, research indicates most people experience between 50% and 80% of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18.  Therefore, it is important to protect young children from dangerous levels of sun exposure. 

The following practices will help protect children as well as older family members from the potentially harmful effects of the sun.

  • Use sunscreen consistently. Children should always wear sunscreen outside during the summer months when the UV rays are more intense. Generously apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before children go outside. Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours-more often if water play is involved.
  • Avoid the strongest rays of the day. Plan outdoor times during the morning and late afternoon hours. Avoid times when the sun is most intense-noon to 2 p.m. in most areas.
  • Keep outdoor play and family fun to a reasonable length. Limit the length of time children spend in the sun to help prevent overexposure and sunburns.
  • Cover up. During family or school outings, be sure to bring clothing that can cover sensitive skin areas. Lightweight long-sleeve shirts and hats with wide brims provide good sun protection.
  • Encourage children to take play breaks in shady areas. Children can still enjoy outdoor play without spending all of their time in the sunniest areas.
  • Offer fluids frequently. To prevent dehydration, offer water or other healthy beverages during outdoor play and fun in the sun.
  • Be a good role model.  Children learn by watching the adults in their lives.  When older family members model use of sunscreen and other protective measures, children are encouraged to follow along.