Fun in the sun (without the worry-lines)

Luke: “Nanny, what’s that?

Nanny: “that’s my elbow”

L: “It’s all stripy”

N: “Stripy?” looks at elbow “oh yes, that’s Nanny’s skin. When you get older your skin gets a bit saggy and goes a bit stripy like Nanny’s”

L: “Is my elbow stripy”

N: “No, yours is nice and springy”

Luke, pressing elbow with index finger: “Yes mine is springy, not stripy like yours”

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Haha. Luckily my elbow isn’t stripy yet either, just a little folded. But a child’s observation can be a poignant reminder than we need to look after ourselves if we want to stay looking great.

There’s a host of different options to help prevent stripy elbows (and stripy knees, chins, eyes, hands, and even tummy’s), since we appear to have finally come into summer (hooray!!), it seems a good time to talk about sunscreens and the dangers of too much sun exposure…We can all enjoy that feeling of relaxation that comes with basking in the sun but too much sun is a short-cut to dry, leathery skin as we age. And, if you have little ones to look after it’s especially important they are well-protected.

Babies and children have delicate skin and it is more sensitive to UV damage than adults. So it’s important to make sure they are always protected. If you’re headed to the park, make your base under a tree, staying in the shade is nature’s own sun protection and if you have a new or very young baby never put them in direct sunlight – but remember you can still get burnt in the shade so an SPF is a must, the higher the better, I always go for 30plus.

NHS sun safety page has a very good video.

Always cover the tops of ears, back of neck and remember that sunscreens expire, so it’s best to buy a new one every year.

Protecting your eyes
red suglasses

Long-term exposure to sunlight increases the risk of a type of cataract, not to mention the crows-feet.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can reduce the amount of UV rays reaching your face and eyes. And of course a good pair of sunglasses goes a long, long way – as if you needed an excuse to visit the Sunglasses department at Harvey Nichols!

What to look for in sunglasses

Not all sunglasses are born equal so when you’re shopping choose a pair that has one of the following:
• the ‘CE Mark’ and British Standard (BS EN 1836:1997)
• a UV 400 label
• a statement that the sunglasses offer 100% UV protection
Think about the sides of your eyes, and consider sunglasses with wide or wraparound arms.

Sunburn
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We’ve all been there, at the end of a day that was hotter than expected your little one looks a little bit pink. But what do you do if that little pink turns into a burning red by morning? Prevention is better than cure so I asked Paediatric Nurse, Health Visitor, Mummy of two and owner of Baby Steps, Katherine Whitby for advice.

What would your advice be for staying safe in the sun this summer?

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We all enjoy the sunshine and children especially do, as they can be out playing in the garden and park, go exploring and have lots of fun. Whether at home or abroad the best things you can do to enjoy the sun and avoid them experiencing any ill effects of the sun are:
• Keep them in shady areas as much as possible. A parasol can be a great purchase for the garden if you don’t have much shade (just make sure the parasol is secure for little toddlers who might like to shake it…thinking of my little boy in particular!)
• Use sunscreen, ideally factor 30, and re apply throughout the day as with sweat and water it will rub off.
• For babies under 6 months sunscreen isn’t so widely available, possibly as manufacturers can’t market it as it may not have been widely tested on for younger babies. Ideally at such a young age they need to be kept in the shade. They generally get pretty hot and bothered otherwise!
• Use hats…if they will keep them on!
• Sun-suits are great and readily available, offering sun protection while they are playing and swimming, but still slap on the sunscreen and a hat too.
• Eye protection is worth considering. There are many (very cute!!) sunglasses which offer protection…again if they will wear them! My 3 year old daughter loves her spotty ones now but wasn’t so keen last summer so it depends.
• Just like us they will get thirsty throughout the day, so have water at the ready. Homemade ice-lollies can be fun to make and work a treat. If you are breastfeeding your breastmilk will amazingly adjust to the heat and have a higher water content, but the baby may well need to feed more frequently. Try to go with this and your milk supply will adjust.
• Dress babies and older children, when out and about, in loose cotton layers. If they are well protected in the shade then just their nappy or minimal clothing or none might work best!
• At night if they are getting hot but like sleeping in a sleeping bag, use a sheet style one (available from Jojo Maman Bebe).
• You might choose use a fan on a low setting, this can get great but just keep it at a distance rather than directly on the child and for toddlers or older children make sure it is away from little fingers!

Other than pink skin, what are the warning skins of sun burn and heat stroke?

With good care in the sun it is hopefully unlikely that our little ones will get sun burnt or sun stoke. However, they are not able to manage heat as well as we can and their skins are not used to the sun.
Always looks at the whole picture as they may just be tired after a busy day playing in the sun and need an early night! However our little ones may show signs of the following:
• Irritability
• Lethargy
• Thirst
• Reduced urine output
• Pink or red skin which is sore
• A headache…which they may not be old enough to explain!

What should we do if we suspect our little one has been burnt during the day?

yellow sunshine
• Rehydrate – plenty of water and/or milk.
• We always want to cool children down slowly so nice soothing gentle actions. If they are not too grumpy and distressed a lukewarm bath – not too warm but not freezing, a lukewarm flannel to pat them with.
• A dose of paracetamol (Calpol) will help a possible headache.
• If you have any aloe vera gel or baby lotion then this can be applied to soothe the skin, it can be put in the fridge to give an extra cooling effect.
• Loose cotton layers to wear or even just sheets as you feel appropriate.
• Cuddles, stroking their hair, helping them to relax.
• Keeping them out of further sun!

Seek Advice:
• If you have any further concerns you must seek medical advice via NHS 111, your GP, Walk In Centre or Emergency Department as appropriate.
• If going abroad make sure you know where your nearest medical services are.

I’ve heard of sun-burnt babies being covered in blisters? Have you ever experienced this?

Thankfully in my experience I have not seen this. Babies and young children’s skin can be up to 15 times thinner than ours so it really is something we need to be careful about. Always take extra care when you can and seek advice if you are not sure.

Ideally be prepared for every eventuality and take a First Aid course. We offer a course at home which is the perfect opportunity to learn in a relaxed, social way
with friends at a time to suit you or at local handpicked venues.

Above all have fun this summer with your little ones – there will be many magical moments you will always remember and photos you look back on. They look so cute in their sun hats!

Further reading:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/30898-why-tell-me-why-sunburns-video.htm

If you want to read more about labeling of sunscreens check a list of ‘bad’ kids’ sunscreens.

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