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Children require special care to reduce the damage from UV radiation exposure. Unprotected sun and UV radiation exposure in the first 15 years of life significantly increases the chances of getting skin cancer later in life.

  • whenever possible keep children in the shade
  • teach them to play in the shade and make sure that their favourite play areas are shaded
  • children can get sunburn even on cold, cloudy summer days
  • sunlight through the glass of car windows can burn the skin
  • young children can become very quickly overheated in parked cars
  • use a hat and clothing when in the sun that covers arms and legs, such as the new cover-up bathers
  • sunscreen can be used in small amounts on young children on areas that are not covered by clothing. Zinc cream is an effective sun block.

Planning the day

It can take as little as 15 minutes for sunburn and skin damage to occur. UV radiation levels are strongest in the middle of the day so plan to be outdoors before 11am or after 3pm in daylight saving time – or before 10am and after 2pm during the rest of the year.

When you’re outdoors, stay in the shade. If you’re going somewhere where there are no trees or you are unsure what shade protection is available, bring your own shade, such as a large umbrella.

Dress sun smart

There are lots of cool, comfortable and fashionable clothes that offer sun protection, but they have to cover the skin to protect it. Select loose fitting clothes made from fabric that does not let light through and shorts that are knee length.

Swimwear: Rash vests are a sun-sensible swimwear solution. Look for vests that state the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) level on the tag. The higher the number, the greater the protection from UV radiation. A UPF of 50+ gives the best protection.

Hats: Hats should be worn whenever children are outside to provide protection to the face, neck and ears. Broad brimmed hats should have a brim at least 7.5 centimetres wide. Bucket style hats should have a 6 centimetre brim. Legionnaire style hats should have a flap that covers the neck and meets the sides of the front peak to provide protection to the sides of the face.

Baseball caps are not recommended as they don’t provide adequate protection.

Remember that cords in hats can get caught in playground equipment and pose a serious hazard. Hats with a safety release mechanism, or bucket hats without ears, are recommended.

Sunglasses: Sunglasses are important to protect young eyes from UV radiation damage. When shopping for kids sunglasses look for products that:

  • are close fitting, wrap-around styles to stop UV radiation rays from getting in from the side
  • meet the Australian Standard AS1067 (read the label)
  • have an eye protection factor (EPF) 9 or 10, or labeled UV 400.

Sunscreen: Sunscreen is an important sun protection measure, however it does not offer 100% protection from the sun. To get the most protection, sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outside. Use broadspectrum SPF30+ water resistant sunscreen on areas not protected by clothing. Remember to reapply every 2 hours or even more often if wiped, sweated or washed off.

Clothing, hats and shade provide the best coverage for babies and very young children.

Be a role model

Children copy those around them and learn by imitation. So you donning sunscreen and a hat is the best way to ensure your child does the same. If you adopt sun smart behaviour, it's more likely that your children will develop good habits.

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