Children love to play in the sun, and a certain amount of sunshine is good for them. But prolonged exposure to the sun can have very serious harmful effects. That's why more and more schools, recreation centres and care facilities are beefing up their sun protection plans to help young people get just the right amount of sunlight. Shade sails, eye protection and sensible sun policies can help keep kids safe during the hot summer months.
Health benefits of sun exposure
We all need a certain amount of sunlight; without exposure to the sun, our cells don't produce enough Vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and muscles. Cancer Council Australia recommends regular outdoor activity with some bare skin when the UV Index is below 3. During the brightest months, though, Australians are getting all the sun they need through normal activity and sun protection is recommended.
Risks of too much sun
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a key risk factor for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in Australia. In addition to the increased likelihood of skin cancer, getting too much sun can also cause sunburn, dehydration and eye damage if proper protective measures aren't taken. These risks are particularly severe for young people, especially infants, whose skin is much more sensitive than adults'.
Sun protection strategies
To deal with these risks, public spaces -- and particularly institutions that cater to young people -- need comprehensive sun protection plans. These can involve both individual behaviour or actions on behalf of the institution. Individual behaviour can include wearing appropriate eye protection, using sunblock and drinking plenty of water, especially when playing or exercising in the sun. Institutions can encourage or require these actions. They can also make sun protection resources available. Clearly-signposted drinking water, for instance, helps keep young people hydrated. Another way to help keep young people safe from the sun is to provide shade structures such as overhangs or coastal shade sails. A correct arrangement of these can create shady areas for people to play and rest out of the direct rays of the sun while still enjoying the summer weather.
Prolonged exposure to the sun is a serious health risk that affects many Australians. By developing a comprehensive sun protection plan that includes both personal sun protection and large-scale installations like shade sails, an institution can help minimise this risk for its students or guests.