To be precise, it is about protection against too much UV radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is the invisible, high-energy light that is part of solar radiation. It is divided into UVA, UVB and UVC. Our skin is exposed to UVB and UVA radiation. The short-wave UVB radiation is the most dangerous spectrum for humans.
The ozone belt shields most of the UV radiation, whereby the UVC rays are completely filtered out. However, measurements confirm that the ozone concentration in higher air layers has decreased over the past 30 years. The ozone belt has also become thinner in our latitudes, which means that the UV radiation on the earth’s surface is more intense. This trend is likely to intensify as the ozone-depleting substances released earlier remain in the atmosphere for a very long time.
Our children spend a lot more time outdoors than we adults do. By the age of 18, they have already received 80 percent of the UV radiation dose of their entire life. This is why sun protection is particularly important for children. What are the characteristics of children’s skin?
- Their skin is thinner than that of adults. The ability to form a protective light callus from the sun’s rays has to develop over the years.
- It cannot quickly produce enough pigments (melanin), which are considered to be natural self-protection.
- Children’s skin cannot adequately “repair” UV damage.
After we know the facts, we parents don’t feel particularly encouraged. Maybe even a little perplexed. But don’t we already know this from other children’s topics? The selection of suitable food, the right level of media consumption or traffic education are well-known challenges. But if these problems are broken down into concrete individual steps, we come closer to coping. So: What about suitable measures against UV exposure?
There are basically three options for protection against UV radiation:
- Staying less in the blazing sun:The best protection from the sun is shade and appropriate clothing. We should not expose our children to direct sun at all until they are one year old. The rule here is always: leave your clothes in the shade. Babies should also not be rubbed with sunscreen, as they put too much strain on the delicate skin. It is important to avoid direct sunlight for children between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Shade and clothing are the best protection at this time of the day. Remember that even when the sky is overcast, 50-80% of the UV radiation can still penetrate. Finding out about the current UV index can help you plan your day. The UV index is a value for the intensity of UV radiation and is given, for example, by the German Weather Service for various regions in Germany and Europe. The higher the value, the higher the UV exposure and the more likely it is to be sunburned. If the value is low, you can enjoy the sun longer. That also names concrete valuesFederal Office for Radiation Protection .
- Use sun protection creams with a high sun protection factor: Once UV damage has occurred to the skin, it is difficult to compensate for it. Therefore, adequate protection is important. This depends on the age of the children, the intensity of the sun exposure and the skin type. The play activities of the children are also important: for example, do they bathe outside? Then you should choose waterproof products with protection against the UVA and UVB spectrum. The sun protection factor can be between 20 and 30. And: apply new lotion after drying. As a rule of thumb, the State Center for Health Education in Bavaria states: “The lighter the skin, hair and eyes of the little ones are colored, the more sensitive they are to UV radiation.” Sun protection creams with physically acting protective substances (e.g. titanium dioxide) are generally recommended for children. It also plays a role whether the skin is already tanned or not. The University Dermatology Clinic in Tübingen gives guidelines on how long we can stay in the sun at the beginning – these vary from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the skin type. For the choice of sun protection factors for children’s sun creams, the experts recommend the following values:Use textiles with UV protection and put on suitable sunglasses: Summer clothing made of light-colored, thin fabrics does not protect you from UV radiation as much as is assumed. This is especially true if the textiles are soaked. Tightly woven dark fabrics keep the sun out better. In the meantime, clothing or swimsuits with built-in sun protection are available from several manufacturers. Pay attention to the UV standard 801, which includes a test of the textiles even under stress :
• Un-tanned skin needs approx. 20-30 for UVA and UVB,
• pre- tanned skin needs approx . 10-20 for UVA and UVB.
So can we safely send our children into the sun with the appropriate cream? In principle, this cannot be answered in the affirmative. Because, according to the Dermatological Prevention Working Group, a study, sunscreens protect against sunburn, but not against skin cancer. Therefore, these products should not be used for the purpose of prolonging the stay in the sun as desired (see www.unserehaut.de).
- Do your little ones insist on wearing other favorite items? Sun protection also comes from the washing machine! Frosch has a detergent to which a UV absorber has been added. The protection against UV-A and UV-B rays increase with each wash until it reaches a sun protection factor (UPF) of 30 after 10 washes. It is considered sensible to reduce the overall exposure to UV rays in this way. The eyes are best protected by caps or sunglasses with a really good UV filter.