The warmer months have come and that means widely thrown open doors, drinks in the garden and children running around happily. There’s something about Summer that brings joy to the entire family and makes us want to get outdoors as much as possible. Although splash pools and beach days are endless fun, it is also important that we keep track of how much sun exposure our little ones are getting. Over the years, the importance of correct clothing for Summer has been highlighted through research studies and news articles numerous times. So, as we begin to move into those warmer months, what do we need to be aware of when choosing clothes for our children? Our helpful guide explains the impact of sun damage for children and breaks down some of the key recommendations provided, depending on their age or the activity at hand.
When is sunshine good for us?
Our bodies need a degree of sunlight. Sun rays increase the levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) in our brains which is associated with an improved mood. For some people, a lack of sunlight can trigger depression or a symptom known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. This commonly presents itself in bad moods, overeating, tiredness, and excessive sleeping. Research has shown that the appearance of this form of mental illness is rarely found during the warmer months.
Sunlight has also been shown to improve the amount of melatonin that your brain produces. Melatonin is the hormone which indicates to your body that it is time to fall asleep. And, exposure to the ultraviolet light from the sun also helps our bodies absorb Vitamin D which is vital for maintaining healthy bone strength. So, there are many reasons why spending time out in the sunshine is good for our health. However, overexposure has the potential to cause significant damage to our bodies.
What are the negative impacts of too much sun?
We’ve all heard of how powerful the sun can be. For example, the retina in our eyes can become permanently damaged if left unprotected and overexposed to the ultraviolet rays given off by the sun. People who experience this have reduced vision and are also at a higher risk of developing cataracts.
Another key issue with overexposure is our bodies ability to regulate water and salt. When we sweat excessively, it is our bodies way of telling us that we are overheating. Symptoms such as decreased urine output, thirst, irritability, dizziness, and weakness are all signs that our body is struggling to cope. When overheating is left untreated, it can result in heat stroke. This is where your body’s core temperature rises above a safe level (normally 40•C) within a short period of time. Heat stroke is a very serious illness and should be treated immediately with medical attention.
One of the most common ailments from overexposure to sunlight is sunburn. This is caused by the ultraviolet rays and can cause redness, pain, swelling, and blisters. In some cases, it can manifest into sunburn fever with nausea and chills. Alongside this, heat rash is a condition where the ducts in your body that produce sweat trap perspiration under the skin. You may notice a raised, red rash on specific areas of the body including skin folds, the neck, and upper chest. This is easy to treat by staying in cool areas to reduce the risk of sweating or using a powder to absorb moisture.
And, finally, one of the most serious outcomes of too much sunlight is skin cancer. It is commonly caused by long term exposure to either natural sunlight or sun beds. There are three main types; Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Malignant Melanoma. The most serious of these is Malignant Melanoma which can occur anywhere on the body where there are pigment-producing cells. It spreads quickly and needs to be detected early on for the best possible treatment.
Why is sun exposure so harmful to children?
Along with all the points we have mentioned above, it is important to teach proper sun safety to your children from early on. Although issues such as sunburn may seem minor to you, when found on young children, they increase the risk of developing more serious issues further down the line – such as skin cancer. The more sunburns you have as a child, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer in those damaged areas.
With babies under 6 months old, their skin isn’t fully developed yet. It is also thinner than that of older children and therefore, more prone to harm. Any damaged caused during these early months can have a significant impact on their ability to regulate melanin in the future. It is also worth noting that many children as more susceptible to sunburn than others.
Research has also shown that very little sun exposure is needed in children for them to get the right levels of Vitamin D. So, even on cloudy days, they are capable of absorbing all the vitamins they need in a short period of time – therefore, they should be protected at all other times.
How do I dress my child for Summer?
So, now we understand the impact of sunlight on our children’s bodies, it’s time to look at how best to dress them during Summer. The following recommendations are tried and tested to give parents peace of mind when picking out outfits.
It is important to take specific precautions when dressing a newborn or small baby for the sun. Newborns are unable to regulate their body heat until around 2-3 months old. It is also important to remember that a baby’s body won’t be able to fully regulate their temperature naturally until 18 months – 2 years old and that, during this period, they are significantly more sensitive to temperature changes than an adult. Overheating can be very dangerous for small babies. It can cause heat rash or, in worst case scenarios, is one of the main causes of cot death. Therefore, it is vital you understand how to keep your baby cool and safe during Summer.
If you are concerned about overheating in your baby, check for the following signs:
- Flushed Face
- Red Cheeks
- Fast Breathing
- Tummy temperature (this should be warm, but not hot).
If you spot any of these symptoms, take your baby into a cool and shaded area. Consider removing items of clothing, if safe to do so, and find ventilation to help cool them down.
Here are some of our main tips:
- Cover your baby’s head with a lightweight hat. This will reduce sun exposure to their heads. Keep an eye on them at all times to spot signs of overheating
- Be conscious of layers. In certain temperatures, such as those over 25•, a single layer should be suitable.
- Opt for 100% cotton, breathable vests, lightweight dresses and rompers
- When outdoors, choose long trousers and long sleeved tops to cover them but in lightweight cotton so they can breath
- If using a baby carrier, choose one made from nylon rather than heavier fabric. If your baby looks hot or flushed, remove them straight away and find ventilation.
- Choose light coloured clothes where possible
- Provide as much shade as possible. Parasols, umbrellas, and canopies are the best way to do this, no matter where you are.
- Try to avoid being outside when the sun is at its highest – normally between 12pm and 2pm.
- Keep newborns out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
- If your baby is under 6 months old, they shouldn’t be using sunscreen. Instead, follow the tips above for safety in the sun.
Toddlers & Small Children
Once children get past 2 years old, their bodies are better able to regulate body temperature. However, they should still be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to minimize exposure and its potential damage. Below are our top tips for young children.
- Continue to choose 100% cotton fabrics where possible. These allow their bodies to breath and helps to absorb perspiration.
- Use a sun hat at all times. This will shade their head and face.
- Use a high SPF sunscreen that is water resistant and broad spectrum. In general, we recommend either an SPF 50 or SPF 30 depending on the temperature.
- Avoid being outside directly in the sun between 11am and 3pm.
- Consider the number of layers you choose. The rule of thumb is to dress them as you would.
- Choose UV protected clothing. This is generally rated by UPF. A UPF of 15 will only allow 1/15th of the sun’s rays to pass through it. The higher the UPF, the greater the protection from the sun.
- When it comes to footwear, opt for something that lets their feet breath to reduce the risk of sun rash.
- Try sunglasses. Some children will love the novelty of wearing these protective glasses and it’s a great way of encouraging them to look after their eyes.
- If you’re going swimming, consider a long sleeve suit with long sleeves and long legs. These will keep them dry, reduce UV exposure and still allow them to play freely.
- Consider nighttime clothing too. Overnight, small children will sweat as their body re-regulates itself and repairs muscles. So you need to make sure they are at a lower risk of overheating while still warm enough to prevent premature wakings. Consider whether they need a vest or whether a long sleeve all-in-one sleepsuit is suitable.
Where can I find Summer appropriate clothing?
Here at STC Stores, we have a wide range of baby and children’s clothing – a lot of which will help them get through the warmer months. If you need any advice on the right, breathable item for your little one, get in touch with the helpful team here today who will be happy to offer information and tips.