The sun has many healing properties and can also help prevent several diseases. However, too much time in the sun can have very negative effects, leading to skin damage and, in many cases, skin cancer. Many of the negative side effects of skin damage begin at an early age even though symptoms do not appear until much later. Children that are protected from the sun and raised to have respect for it have a much better chance of avoiding long term sun damage.
While the sun can be responsible for causing irreparable damage, it also provides many benefits. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays helps your skin cells produce vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and a healthy heart. It is also believed to protect against breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Exposure to the sun also helps combat certain forms of depression and can even help with insomnia.
The benefits of the sun need to be balanced with the adverse effects it can cause. Prolonged periods of sun exposure can cause a variety of damage including cataracts, skin discoloration (tans), blemishes (sun spots), premature aging, skin burns, heat stroke, and skin cancer. For most people who develop sun related diseases, their risk did not come from one day of too much sun, but rather from repeated long term exposure.
The child who burns at age 1 during his sunny vacation, and then gets a repeat sun burn at age 3, and then goes on to become a sun worshipper as a teenager and tans everyday is at far greater risk than the person who accidentally falls asleep on the lounge chair for a few hours and wakes up looking like a lobster. Unfortunately, both of these people will have consequences. However, the body tends to be fairly forgiving for the occasional mistake, but seems to be much more punishing on repeat offenders.
In order to protect your child from the sun and put him or her on the road to healthy sun play, spend about 10 minutes in the sun every day. Enjoy the warmth of it on your face and your body and do not worry about any sun protection during your short intake of Vitamin D. However, once you have consumed your daily dose, it’s time to seek shelter from the sun’s rays. Use sun block, which needs to be applied about 30 minutes in advance in order for it to be absorbed by the skin. Wear proper attire to help cover exposed skin, and don’t forget a wide brimmed hat and sun glasses. Stay in shaded areas whenever possible and drink water frequently to stay hydrated.
By following some basic sun protection guidelines, you both can enjoy the healthy benefits and mental relaxation that comes from sun exposure without risking you or your child’s safety.