Is the sun good for children? How should the exposure take place? Which sunscreen to use and what should be the protective factor? Professor Piergiacomo Calzavara Pinton, director of the Dermatological Clinic of the Spedali Civili of Brescia, clarifies all the doubts of mothers.
1. The sun is good for children: it helps the harmonious growth of bones
The ancient intuition that the action of the sun’s rays was beneficial especially for children has been widely confirmed. The skin, stimulated by the sun, synthesizes vitamin D, which is scarcely present in foods and is valuable for the harmonious growth of bones and their health. Foods that contain small amounts of vitamin D are milk, eggs, cod liver oil.
2. Other positive effects of the sun: it helps in the regulation of sleep, it is good for mood and helps with certain skin diseases
The sun also promotes the balance of neurotransmitters involved in the mechanisms that regulate sleep and mood.
Not only: it helps in the case of atopic dermatitis and other skin diseases such as psoriasis.
Finally, it seems (but there is still no definite and definitive evidence) that exposure to the sun solicits the production of particular substances (cytokines) which, through action on vitamin D, could protect against certain types of cancer.
3. The risks of the sun: we must prevent the baby from getting burned and getting burned
The risks are related to the possibility that the child gets burned as can happen when he is put in the sun for so long and without protection. It should be emphasized that the simple reddening of the skin is already the expression of a first-degree burn. The appearance of blisters filled with clear serum characterizes the second-degree burn.
It should also be strongly emphasized that repeated burns during childhood, in addition to being a painful inconvenience in the immediate future, favor the appearance in adulthood of the most common skin tumors: melanoma, spinalioma, basalioma.
4. How to expose children to the sun: in a limited and protected way
Direct exposure limited and protected is the great imperative which can not be ignored, to which is added another essential rule: the child should not be in the sun during the middle of the day, that is, between 11 am and or he must be very little and well protected.
It is also valid if the day is cloudy, as the clouds are not enough to deprive the rays of their burning power.
5. Never forget sunscreen
Keep in mind that another important protection, even if not sufficient, is represented by the shirt, the umbrella, the cap of the hat.
6. The protective factor must be high (30-50) in the first few days of exposure. Then you can pass an average Spf
As long as the skin has not darkened, it is advisable to use high protection (factor of 30 to 50 or, even better, 50+), after which you can switch to medium protection.
The application should be made just before exposing the child to the sun and not only in the areas that you want to protect. Care should be taken to spread the product evenly over the entire skin.
The protective effect of a sun cream lasts on average for two hours, after which the application must be repeated. It is prudent to apply the cream even if the child is under the umbrella. The application of the cream should not authorize you to prolong the time of direct exposure to the sun or to ignore the need to expose the child gradually.
7. Direct exposure to the sun must be gradual
You should start with 5-10 minutes and then increase by 5-10 minutes every day. These times can be a little longer if the skin is well protected by an effective sunscreen. The tan that gradually forms on the skin, in turn, becomes protection during subsequent exposures (but be careful: you must still continue to put the cream). This is true, however, only if the child does not belong to skin types 1 and 2, ie he does not have red hair, freckles, and milky skin, or blond hair and very white skin.
8. Avoid direct sun exposure of children belonging to skin types 1 and 2, ie with red or blond hair and milky skin
The phototypes 1 and 2 can never get a really protective tan, so they should never be exposed directly to the sun, but they must wear the shirt and be protected by a sunscreen even while swimming in the sea.
It should be remembered that the beneficial effects of the sun are also obtained in the shade: what matters, in fact, is the possibility of being outdoors, because the reflected light is sufficient to stimulate the production of vitamin D and even to tan.
9. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight up to one year of age
Before the year of life, both at sea and in the mountains, the child should not be exposed to direct sunlight, if not shortly after dawn or dusk. When he starts walking, he can begin to make him stay in the sun, with all the necessary precautions.
10. In the event of burns, apply emollient cream. For burning and itching, small amounts of cortisone cream
If the skin becomes red but there is neither itching nor discomfort, just apply an emollient cream on the part. Until the redness persists, avoid direct exposure to the sun’s rays. If burning and itching are associated with redness, a small amount of cortisone cream can be applied.
If vesicles appear filled with serum, the pediatrician must be shown the child. The vesicles must not be pierced or covered with plasters or gauze. No home remedy (for example, egg white applications) is of any effect and could even be counterproductive, so it is best to avoid.