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What are the effects of the sun on children?

Parents often insist that their kids go and play out in the sun, enjoy the fresh air and get some exercise. However, could the damages and harshness of the sun’s rays be causing more harm than good? We all know that too much sun can be bad for your skin and body. Read on to learn how and why.

As the famous saying goes; as soft as a baby’s bum, a child’s skin stays thin, supple and soft well into their toddler and tweenie years. This means that if your child spends long periods of time in the harsh sun, they are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer, damaging their eyes and promoting premature aging. Sun protection should be practiced by everyone, no matter your age. Safety first, then fun and beauty later.

The image conscious world has started to invade the minds of young children. Tanning and having that sun kissed glow is becoming a top priority for the young children, who are fast approaching their teenage years. As attractive as a bronze body can be, the brown colour is actually an indication that your skin has been damaged and is trying to fight off the damaging effects of harmful Ultraviolet rays. Melanin or the brown colour, is your body’s defence against the harmful UV rays.

It is never too late to start taking care of yourself and your skin. The skin is your biggest organ and needs to be looked after, nourished and protected. Children, who have suffered from severe sunburns, are at a great risk of dealing with these consequences later on in life. Some consequences could be fatal or permanent.

How Does the Sun Affect my Child?
The sun is shining, the sky is a gorgeous blue colour and there isn’t a cloud in sight. It is a beautiful day to be outside. A day at the beach or in the great outdoors has your name written all over it, and this is the perfect opportunity for a family day.

The sun is blisteringly hot and would unapologetically burn your skin to a singe. Sun protection is crucial for any day in the sun; this is especially true for children who have delicate and silky skin. If your child is not properly protected from the sun, they run the risk of suffering from serious damages that could be life threatening in the long run.
According to Skin 911, excessive sun exposure can cause the following conditions:

Pigmentation Changes

The bronze colour might last a summer, but the damages can be everlasting. Repeated sun exposure can change the appearance of your skin permanently. This can come in the form of freckles, brown spots and uneven skin tones. Other children may have no colour or pigmentation; instead they may have permanent white spots on their bodies. If your child spends too much time in the sun, they may also develop Telangiectasia. This is the permanent dilation of small blood vessels or spider veins on the nose, face, neck or chest. Telangiectasia will leave your child looking constantly flushed. This condition will become a nuisance once your child reaches his/her teenage years.

Permanent Changes in the Skin

Wrinkles and premature aging can be brought on by spending too much time in the sun. As mentioned previously, some of these symptoms may take years before you see just how much you have damaged your skin. In other words, your children need to learn and become sun-wise from an early age, so that they do not suffer in the long run and in many years to come.
Harsh sun exposure will make your child’s once soft, smooth and subtle skin, become hard and resembles that of an elephant. Sun protection will ensure that your child keeps and enjoys his/her youthful look for many years to come.

As your child approaches his/her teen years, they will experience puberty and all that goes with it. They don’t need the added worry of senile comedones. These are little black heads that appear if your child spends too much time in the sun. They become a problem as they are next to impossible to get rid of.

Moles and Actinic keratoses, often poses as a threat for concern. These callous’ are often precancerous and take on a crusty and hard appearance. They need to be monitored constantly. If your child’s moles become sore, raise, bleed or crusty, you should take them to the doctor as soon as possible, this is open a clear sign of skin cancer.

Sun Damage and Cancer
There are 3 types of cancer that are caused as a direct result of sun damage:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It occurs in the deepest layer of the skin, in the hair follicles and sweat ducts. This specific cancer is caused by UVB radiation, which damages DNA and its repair system. It relies on the surrounding tissue for support to help it grow. It does not travel through the blood vessels.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the outer layer of the skin causing mutation in these cells. This cancer causes the appearance of the skin to change. In more cases then not, this type of cancer is benign but should be monitored closely.
  3. Melanoma is the most dangerous of all the skin cancers. This is the cancer of the melanocytes. This in turn means that the cancer has affected the pigment producing cells. This cancer is so dangerous because it can spread to different parts of the body.

Your child is at a greater risk of developing skin cancer if they have fair skin, light coloured eyes and hair, they generally burn easily, they have many moles, birthmarks and freckles, they often play outside and spend a lot of time in the sun, if they have previously had serious burns, or there is a family history of skin cancer.

The Sun and The Eyes
The sun can also burn the surface of the eye, similar to that of sunburn on the skin. This burn can cause permanent damage on the retina, due to scaring. Cataract can also develop on the eye, as a direct result of sun damage.

Vitamin D
On the positive side, the sun helps the body to produce its own vitamin D. Vitamin D is used to help grow and develop strong and healthy bones and teeth. Your child needs a fair amount of vitamin D everyday, to ensure that they have strong bones.

How to Protect your Child from the Sun
For decades, people have been bathing in vinegar, applying copious amounts of after-sun or smothering their bodies with yoghurt, as a way to ease the pain or redness of sunburn. Although these methods are successful in soothing sunburn, they don’t put a stop to or ease the damages caused by the sun. Keep the below pointers in mind, when your children spend any time in the sun. It could save their skin, eyes and lives in the long run.

  • Keep your child hydrated and cool
  • Sit in a shaded area if possible
  • Apply sunscreen every half an hour
  • Cover all body parts with tightly woven material
  • Place a wide hat on your child’s head
  • Avoid being in the sun between 10h00 and 16h00.
  • Dress your child in light colours
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes

Burn Baby, Burn
Some sun is good for your children, but too much exposure to the sun and severe burns can be costly in the long run. Proper sun protection will ensure that your family has a great day out with fewer hassles and red, burnt and painful skin. Invest in your child’s future; educate them about the dangers of the sun.

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