A little ray of sunshine… why winter sun is good for kids

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I’m so focused on sun protection that when it comes to the time of year when we should be letting a little sun in, I need reminding.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, muscles and in the prevention of osteoporosis. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the major cause of skin cancer but also the best source of vitamin D.  So how do we ensure that we protect our kids from skin cancer but at the same time make sure that they get some sun for vitamin D? By taking a balanced approach to UV exposure, we can help with vitamin D levels and minimise skin cancer risk.

In the southern parts of Australia, UV levels are low (below three) for most or all of winter. During this period, Australians need to expose their face, arms and hands (or equivalent area of skin) to midday winter sun for two to three hours spread over the week. That’s about twenty minutes a day. Those with naturally very dark skin may need three to six times this amount. Sun protection is not required during these low UV periods, unless near highly reflective surfaces such as snow, outside for extended periods or if the UV reaches three and above.

In the northern parts of the country, UV levels remain high (three and above) all year around and sun protection is always required.

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So how do you know when you the UV is above three? That’s where SunSmart’s handy app helps. We’ve reviewed the app previously on Babyology and it’s available to download for free for all smartphones. The app tells you when you do and don’t need sun protection and also includes a vitamin D tracker tool so you can find out if you are getting enough UV exposure for vitamin D.

And just to remind you, here are some tips for getting the balance right –

  • Get in the habit of checking the daily sun protection times for your location using the app. The sun protection times occur when the UV is forecast to be three or above and therefore when sun protection is required. If the UV is below three, no sun protection times are issued and sun protection is not required. At these times, make midday sun exposure a priority.
  • Physical activity assists with production of vitamin D, so if you’re in the southern parts of Australia, get your kids outside and active in the middle of the day in winter.
  • Clothing acts as a barrier to vitamin D absorption, so if you’re in the southern parts of Australia, put away the hat and roll up the sleeves when you’re at the playground in winter.
  • Visit the SunSmart website where your family can create a personalised vitamin D poster and learn about UV and vitamin D at the same time.
  • Remember if you are heading to the snow, sun protection is still required.

For more information, visit SunSmart.

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(top image Lina via photopin cc)

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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