For children, sunshine always goes with outdoor games, running and playing. Although it brings along plenty fun and benefits, the sun is unfortunately dangerous for babies’ and children’s fragile and immature and skin.
The Sun has Different Types of Rays
Three types of rays
We can see some of the sun’s rays, but not all… Three types of radiation reach the Earth:
- The visible rays, that can be seen with our own eyes
- The Infrared (IR)
- The Ultraviolet (UV), UVA and UVB, which are the most dangerous
What do UV rays do to our skin?
The effects of radiation on our skin vary according to their wavelength: the longer the wavelength of radiation, the deeper it penetrates the skin.
The rays impact our skin, depending on their UV type:
- UVA rays, which penetrate the deepest into our skin, cause rapid tanning but are also responsible for aging and wrinkling.
- UVB rays cause slow tanning, sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer.
- UVC rays are the most harmful. Fortunately, they do not reach the surface of the Earth.
All skin types are not equal facing sun risks. Depending on their ability to produce melanin and therefore to tan, they are more or less resistant to UV rays.
UV Quantities: A Varying Scope
The amount of UV our skin receives depends on a number of factors:
- Season: in the Northern hemisphere in July for instance, the risk of sunburn due to UVB is 100 times greater than in winter.
- Latitude: the sun’s intensity is at its maximum at the Equator where radiation is vertical and passes quicker through the ozone layer.
- Altitude: the amount of UVB increases by 4% every 300 meters in altitude. This partly explains the major risk of sunburn in mountains.
- Time: in the morning and evening, the sun’s rays are oblique. But between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., they cross the ozone layer more.
- Clouds: depending on their thickness and altitude, clouds can filter UV a little, but sunburns still happen under a cloudy sky.
- The nature of the ground: the reflection power is different from one ground to another. Snow has 85% reflection, sand has 17%, water 5% while grass for instance has 3%. Which is why mountains, with a high concentration of UVBs due to altitude and snow reflection, combine all sun dangers.
- Water: it reflects up to 20% of UV rays. Meaning that you can actually get a sunburn under water!
Sun Benefits - The Bright Side
There’s no life without sun!
- The sun’s rays help us build vitamin D, which stimulates the metabolism of calcium and promotes bone growth.
- Sunlight has a “good mood” effect on us.
Just a few minutes of sunlight per day are enough to produce these positive effects on us.
Exposure Risks – The Dark Side
Prolonged exposure to the sun can present several risks, in the short term but also in the long run, especially:
- Infrared rays which can cause sunstroke, with discomfort and / or headaches and even heat strokes with acute dehydration and impaired consciousness - especially with children.
- UVB rays, and to a lesser extent UVA rays can burn the epidermis and cause sunburn.
- After several years, repeated exposure without suitable protection can lead to skin aging under the effect of UVA rays, or even to skin cancer under the effect of UVB rays.
Keep cool though! To protect your baby from the sun when you cannot avoid exposure, simply go by a few easy rules and use a good sunscreen.