• Question: why always not good to expose a young child to sun

    Asked by 627hthj1722 to Caroline, Derrick, Mark, Marta, Sammy on 11 Jul 2017.
    • Photo: Marta Maia

      Marta Maia answered on 11 Jul 2017:

      Child skin is more delicate than that of adults, because skin is thinner and the hydrolipid layer is less developed. These characteristics indicate that the barrier function of skin, that is its ability to “shield” skin, is weaker, thus child skin is more prone to dryness, irritation and more vulnerable to environmental harsh agents.bBeing fragile and immature, child skin requires special care also when exposed to the sun. In newborns especially, the defence system made up by melanocytes, which produce melanin, is not fully functioning yet, thus baby skin is unable to defend itself. For these reasons, babies and younger children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of sun radiation, both when it is short-term and long-term, delayed damage. Therefore, preventing damage caused by sun exposure by using sun protection is very important, especially in babies and younger children. However, exposure to sunlight is also essential for Vit D production. Foods like eggs, fish and liver are good sources of vitamin D. But unlike other vitamins, vitamin D needs to be activated by a little assistance from the sun’s rays. When a child is exposed to sunlight, it helps his/her body synthesize vitamin D in the skin. It doesn’t take much time in the sun to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.

    • Photo: Sammy Wambua

      Sammy Wambua answered on 11 Jul 2017:

      Although the skin is barrier to many of the potentially harmful environmental factors, babies’ skins aren’t fully developed to function normally. This is why they have to be physically protected from the effects of environment generally, not only the sun radiation.

    • Photo: Caroline Ogwang

      Caroline Ogwang answered on 13 Jul 2017:

      Hi 627hthj1722,

      When the skin is exposed to direct sunlight, the body produces vitamin D. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones.

      Babies and young children have sensitive skin that can be damaged easily by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Exposing a child to too much sun may increase their risk of skin cancer later in life. Repeated unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can also cause eye damage and immune system suppression.

      It is therefore advisable:
      -Encourage a child to play in the shade when the sun is at its strongest at 11am and 3pm.
      -Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
      -Cover exposed parts of a child’s skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy days.
      -Cover baby’s arms and legs in lightweight, light-colored clothing.
      – Get a child to wear a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck.