We are very excited to have the sun return and have made the most of time outdoors. However, I am always keeping an eye that J doesn’t get too red and keeps hydrated. With 86% of melanoma skin cancer being caused my UV exposure it’s important to be aware of how time in direct sun. From a personal perspective skin cancer (benign and malignant) has affected my family and possibly myself (as I await a biopsy for a suspicious mole). Today I will be sharing some sun facts and different ways I keep J safe in the sun.
UV rays are the leading cause of skin cancer and sunburn as a child increases the chance of developing skin cancer later on. That fact is scary. The idea that something I am doing now with J can have devastating effects for him later makes me realise that I have to take the sun seriously. Everyday I check the UV ratings on the met office website.
This means that I can find out which time of the day to avoid direct sunshine. If we are out and about for example a day at the beach, then I will plan to have lunch in a chip shop restaurant or go into the arcades during the peak UV times. Sometimes this isn’t possible so there’s other ways to support your child:
- UV sun hats (preferably with the flap that covers the neck)
- UV protected sun glasses
- UV swimwear that covers most of the body.
- Long sleeved, loose and light coloured clothes.
- Lots of sun creamed, reapplied regularly (look at the UV rating on the back, not just the factor. You want 4+ UV star rating).
- UV tents/sun shades (or you can great your own tent with a bedsheet hung over the washing line).
- ‘After sun’ lotions or some sort of cooling creams for when you get out of the sun.
Don’t get me wrong, UV has its useful side as it does allow for vitamin D which is needed to support bone and muscle development, but we actually only need a short period out in the sun to get this. Other ways to get vitamin D that doesn’t rely on the sunshine is to have a diet rich in red meat, eggs and oily fish.
Encourage Good Habits
It is helpful if you can get your child on board with sun safety. In our household it is extra challenging as J’s autism means he seeks routine. We’ve had months (and months) of wearing coats, jumpers and wellies. We can go outside to play and not worry about finding shade. J is sensory sensitive and doesn’t like having suncream on. I want to build the understanding whilst he is young and to make sure he’s prepared for the summer months.
To do this I have used Twinkl resources to download sun safety posters (showing the process ‘suncream, sun hat, sun glasses etc so we can use it as a sort of ‘checklist’) to hang up and we looked at a Twinkl powerpoint about sun safety. Children who are autistic tend to respond better to visuals. By having something they can see to give them a prompt or to show them what to expect can make the process easier.
There’s two other ways to encourage children to develop good habits.
- Be a good role model: let your child see you putting on sun cream, wear a hat and sunglasses, talk about finding shade and why. Talk about feeling hot and sunburn. If children see others around them following sun safety rules then they will be more likely to imitate.
- Be firm and consistent: end of the day safety has to come first. Sometimes I have to be firm and say that he wont be going in the garden if he doesn’t let me put his cream on.
Fun and Cooling Activities
There’s lots of way to have fun in the sun which keep children cool. For us we use lots of water play. We may have the paddling pool out (Which I admit I only do when I know we have a good length of sun as its a pain the backside to put up and down), filling a tray with water and exploring, water gun fights and water balloons etc. This keeps him cool but engaged in playing.
I set up activities in the UV shade tent. We lay out a blanket inside and play Lego, read books, set up Star Wars figures. J can run in and out so he has time in the sun and time in the shade. When he has his time where he has had too much time in the direct sun and I need him to come somewhere cooler, I use snacks or get a new toy to tempt him back to the tent.
We go on trips to the woodlands which is great as its outdoors but with plenty of shade. I find play parks which have shade areas or surrounded by trees. I also download treasure hunts from Twinkl to encourage J to stay under cover whilst still getting run around and explore. We visit the beach and spend time in the sea or cooling off with an ice lolly. This leads me to another couple of cool activities.
I brought a tub of reusable ice cubes. You simply freeze, use them, wash them and refreeze. We’ve used this to put our feet in and rub hands around the tray. We talk about how it feels and laugh as we squeal as we get used the temperature change. We have used them to create towers and bridges, but you could have fun using them to dip in paint and create paintings, or put in some play animals and it can become the Antarctic.
Also, creating your own ice lollies can provider edible entertainment. You can buy ice lolly moulds from many home based shops. You can make simple lollies using sugar free squash, or get created and blitz up fruit to create smoothie ice lollies. You can combine colours, add bits of fruit etc. Children can have fun creating them, and then once frozen they can be used a nice cooling treat when out in the sun.
Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
It’s important to know the difference between Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion. One is quick to ‘fix’ but the other can be serious and needs medical attention. Sometimes you can plan everything like a military operation but your child may still end up with sunburn or having had too much heat.
Heat exhaustion is unpleasant but can be treated at home. The symptoms to look for according to the NHS are:
dizziness and confusion
loss of appetite and feeling sick
excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
fast breathing or pulse
temperature of 38C or above
If this happens then you need to get out of the sun and cool down with a cool drink, cool bath (not cold!), cool packs, find somewhere cooler in general. If after 30 minutes this hasn’t helped or symptoms get worse (such as temperature reaching 40oC plus, seizure, loses consciousness, still feels excessively hot or becomes different to keep responsive) then you MUST seek medical advice as this can be heat stroke.
I hope you all have a great time in the sun, but please remember to be safe. Keep an eye on the temperature, time you’ve been in direct sunshine, when sunscreen was last applied and the UV rating. If I’ve missed anything or you want to share your activity ideas then please feel free to let me know in the comments, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Disclaimer: I am a Twinkl blogger which means I receive my subscription in return for sharing our Twinkl experiences. All opinions and views are my own and I receive no monetary compensation for link clicks.