Ultraviolet (UV) radiation hit its peak on March 6 (in Singapore). Between 11.45 am and 2.45 pm, UV radiation was at “extreme” levels and peaked at 14, according to the data released by the National Environment Agency. However, experts assured residents that—even though harmful effects of UV rays are well-known—it is not a matter of concern.
Generally, UV index near “at extreme” levels is quite common in places close to the equator, such as Singapore. The international standard measurement of UV radiation exposure levels varies between zero and 11+, covering various exposure categories from low upto extreme. In fact, Singapore experiences the least cloud cover between February and March every year, and it’s quite common for the UV radiation levels to increase during this period.
And even though experts have negated any cause for worry, prolonged sun exposure can have adverse effects on the human body, especially that of children. Which is why you must be aware of the harmful effects of UV rays on adults and children alike, and take preventative actions to take.
But let’s begin with the good news!
What Are The Benefits Of UV Rays?
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Before we head to the harmful effect of UV rays, you should know that the body does need sun exposure regularly, albeit at moderated levels.
Regular sun exposure allows the body to absorb vitamin D that improves your child’s overall immunity. It adds to the overall feeling of well-being and also helps against the treatment of dermatosis like vitiligo and psoriasis.
Children with vitamin D deficiency are asked to spend time in the sun in some countries. This is commonly seen early morning when the intensity is low. However, there isn’t a direct correlation between the body’s vitamin D levels and the time spent under the sun. No amount of sun exposure can substitute for a diet-induced vitamin D deficiency. In that case you must speak to your pediatrician about the type of supplements your little one may need.
What Are The Harmful Effects Of UV Rays?
Long UV exposure can cause a number of problems for children, which could affect their adult life as well. Here are some of the common harmful effects of UV rays that you should know about:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that frequent sun exposure and sunburn in childhood can increase the chances of melanoma later in life.
Another effect of long UV exposure can cause premature ageing of the skin. The effects usually include thick and wrinkled skin that turns dry and starts chafing, if left untreated.
Exposure to UV radiation can also damage your eyes and cause issues like cataract. It can also cause degeneration of the macular, the part of the retina which has the most acute visual perception. Of course, these are effects of prolonged exposure over the years. And that’s why it’s important to safeguard your child’s eyes at the right time.
Overexposure to UV rays can also cause immune suppression in adults as well as children. The skin’s natural defences are weakened and this makes your body more susceptible to cancer. The body will not have the strength to fight the harmful particulates invading your bloodstream due to a weakened immune system.
How To Protect Your Child Against UV Rays?
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It’s advisable to have a precautionary check-list before stepping out of the house. Here’s a look at all that you need to follow to minimise UV radiation.
The American Academy of Dermatology advises daily sun protection with SPF30 with a PA level of +++. A sunscreen with SPF30 blocks about 97 percent UV rays, while an SPF50 blocks about 98 percent.
It’s also important to cover frequently exposed areas like the face, ears, neck and hands that see the maximum damage due to prolonged exposure to the sun.
As a guideline, if your child is spending the whole day in the sun, apply sunscreen every two hours under clear skies, especially if you are at the beach or pool.
Parents can begin using sunscreen for their children from the age of six months. Newborns have natural melanin that provides protection, which is why applying sunscreen can be counterproductive. There are specialised sunscreens available for infants and toddlers. Check with your pediatrician for the one that suits your child’s skin.
Wear full-length clothes
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It is advisable to invest in full-length t-shirts and pants for your child if you are spending more time outdoors on hot days. The best protection can be minimising direct UV rays coming in contact with your child’s skin.
It’s also advisable to cover your little one’s head with a hat to minimise risks.
Avoid outdoors during the extreme period
The UV radiation levels are the highest during mid-day during the month of March in Singapore. The clear skies play a crucial role in increasing the UV radiation levels to the extreme. It does disappear as you step into the months of April and May. So avoid the time between 11.00 am and 3.00 pm, when the sun is right at the top.
Invest in polaroid eyewear
It is also advisable to invest in eyewear that comes with polaroid protection against ultraviolet radiation. Often overlooked, sunglasses are extremely important to protect your baby’s eyes from long-term damage.
Always remember, the eyewear does not have to be expensive but needs to offer a considerable amount of UV protection. Make it a point to add this to your shopping list for your child’s summer wear.
In conclusion, do not be paranoid about stepping out in the sun. But do take precautions before doing so and enjoy your time.