Protecting Your Child’s Skin in Child Care

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Protecting Your Child’s Skin in Child Care

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Wednesday, 15 March 2017
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Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world and overexposure to the sun in childhood is known to be a major cause of skin cancer in later life.

Young people are particularly susceptible to sun damage as they have very little of the pigment, melanin, in their skin to protect them from sunburn.

We can work to reduce the risk of children developing skin cancer in later life by adopting some simple, sensible sun protection measures in early childhood. These measures will hopefully teach children good sun habits for life and will help keep them safe in the powerful Australian sun.

What your child care provider will do to protect your child from the sun

In order to meet the licensing and accreditation standards set by ACECQA, childcare providers are required to have a sun protection policy. This policy will probably be based on information from a local state or territory such as the Cancer Council.

According to the Cancer Council a sun protection policy should clearly outline a child care service's policies and procedures with regard to protecting children at the centre from UV radiation including:

  • Minimising outdoor play during peak UV periods
  • Using shade for outdoor play
  • Use of sun safe hats and protective clothing
  • Use of sun screen
  • Education about sun protection
  • Role modelling so staff are a positive influence on children

As with all policy and procedure documents your child care provider's sun protection policy should be available for you to review at any time.

The Cancer Council identifies the five main ways child care providers should work to protect children from the effects of the sun as follows:

1. Minimise the time spent outdoors during peak UV periods
From October to March outdoor activity should be minimised between 11am and 3pm and protective clothing, hats and sunscreen should be used at all times when children are outside.

From April to September outdoor activity can take place at any time during the day and protective clothing, hats and sunscreen are required between 10am and 2pm except in June and July when UV radiation tends to be lower. Please note there are some exceptions to this rule depending on which part of the country your service is located.

2. Use shade for outdoor play
Staying in the shade is one of the most effective ways to reduce sun exposure because it blocks or filters UV rays. However, shade doesn't guarantee total protection so providers should still encourage children to wear hats, protective clothing and sunscreen.

3. Use the right hat
Well designed hats with broad brims which extend right the way around can significantly reduce UV exposure to the face, neck, ears and head. Hats recommended by SunSmart include:

  • Broad-brimmed hats with a brim size of at least 6cm
  • Bucket style hats with a brim size of at least 5cm and a deep crown
  • Legionnaire hats

Recommended hats for adults are:

  • Broad-brimmed hats with a brim size of at least 7.5cm
  • Bucket style hats with a brim size of at least 6cm and a deep crown
  • Legionnaire hats

Baseball caps and sun visors are not recommended as they don't protect the neck, ears and cheeks.

Many child care providers supply hats but if yours doesn't make sure you select one from the list of recommendations above.

4. Wear protective clothing
Clothing reduces the skin's exposure to UV radiation by creating a barrier to the skin. For the best UV protection children in care should cover as much skin as possible, especially the shoulders and back.

Recommended clothes include: loose fitting shirts or dresses with collars and sleeves, trousers, long skirts and shorts.

5. Apply SPF50+ broad spectrum sun screen before going outside
Sun screen protects exposed skin and should be applied 20 minutes before children go outside and every two hours after the first application. Make sure you apply sunscreen before you send your child off to care at the start of the day, if age appropriate, teach your child to reapply sun screen during the day and check with your provider to make sure they are reapplying sun screen.

Child care providers should use a sunscreen that:

  • Has a sun protection factor of 50+, this is the highest available in Australia.
  • Is water resistant and broad spectrum. Broad spectrum sun screens block out both UVA and UVB rays both of which contribute to sunburn, premature skin ageing and cancer.
  • Sunscreens do not block 100 per cent of UV rays and should be used in conjunction with clothing, hats, sunglasses and shade.

In addition to these well known measures the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists recently called for a change to the 'No Hat, No Play' rule for children in primary schools to now include sunglasses. 

This suggestion is supported by the Cancer Council which says that UV radiation to the eyes is not only a concern for hot summer days:

"The level of UV exposure to the eyes is highly dependent on the angle of sunlight reaching the eyes, which is influenced by time of day and time of year. The eye receives direct UV radiation when facing the sun with the sun low in the sky, however reflected and scattered light also have a strong impact in contributing to the total UV exposure to the eyes. Exposure also depends on facial geometry, with the brows and nose blocking some UV radiation at certain times of day.”

What your service may ask you to do to protect your child from the sun
Your service may ask you to help protect your child from the effects of the sun by:

  • Dressing your child in clothes that offer good sun protection, such as long sleeved, collared shirts and long shorts, skirts and dresses
  • Provide a hat for your child in accordance with the list above
  • Apply sun screen to your child in the morning before they arrive in care
  • Provide sun glasses to older children

References
Factsheets for Families: Sun safety in child care

SunSmart ACT
SunSmart NSW
SunSmart NT
SunSmart QLD
SunSmart SA
SunSmart Tas
SunSmart VIC
SunSmart WA
Skin Cancer and Melanoma by Health Direct

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 30 December 2019

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