Sun Protection: Why Children Are More Susceptible to UV Radiation Than Adults

In July of 2001, the World Health Organization  issued a "fact sheet" that described to parents and others why it is vital to protect children from the devastating effects of UV radiation. It read in part, "Children are in a dynamic state of growth, and are therefore  more susceptible to environmental threats than adults."

girl playng sand castle on the beach wearing long sleeve swimsuit

This statement cuts straight to the heart of why children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of UV radiation than adults. It also summarizes why parents, and other caretakers, should be especially vigilant in protecting children from the sun.

It has been known since the late 1990s that UV radiation, particularly UVB radiation, suppresses the immune system. In children, whose immune systems are still developing, the damage can produce a lifetime of problems. The immune system is active at fighting off disease so children who have a suppressed immune system, because of too much UV radiation, will be more susceptible to disease.

Since the 1990s, we have learned a lot more about how UV radiation impacts and weakens the immune system. For example, we now know that a weakened immuned system due to UV radiation exposure leads to higher rates of many types of cancer, not just skin cancer. This is because the immune system is the body's first defense against malignant cells! In a person with a healthy immune system, malignant cells are destroyed immediately. We will discuss the effect of UV radiation on the human immune system in more detail in a future post so stay tuned (you can join our email list for updates too)!

UV radiation also directly damages the DNA in skin cells which is why too much exposure to UV radiation as a child can cause melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, many decades later. DNA damage in a child can rear its ugly head at any point later in life. Thus, protecting her from UV radiation now, will give her a lifetime of protection from cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The good news is that these harmful effects of UV radiation in children are preventable. Back in 2001, when the World Health Organization released that fact sheet, sun protective clothing was really only a concept in a few people's minds. However, sun protective clothing is now becoming widely available and we have put great effort in producing the highest quality sun protective clothing on the market. Please read our About Us page for more information on why we started this business.

little girl playng in the swing wearing long sleeve swimsuit

Here are some valuable tips for Sun Protection:

1. Parents Should Serve As Role Models For Sun Protection

While teenagers are designed by nature to be defiant, younger children are still at a stage where they want to imitate what mom and or dad does. So, if dad wears a cool looking sun shirt to protect himself from the sun, little daughter will probably want to do the same! If mom wears a cool looking wide brimmed sun hat to protect her face and eyes from the UV radiation, little son will likely want to follow suite.

2. Remind Teenagers To Protect Themselves Too, Regardless of Their Snarkiness

The transformation from sweet innocent child to snarly defiant teenager is a difficult time almost every parent faces. As one California parent said recently about how to handle this difficult phase of life, "Kill them with kindness and patience!" So, remind your teen in a sweet and patient voice, "Put on your sun shirt when you go to the beach.... be sure to wear your sun hat today." You can add a a bit of parental persuasion, "I only remind you because I love you so much and I care about your health." They may snarl a bit but they will also be listening if you sugar coat it.

3. Keep Kids Out of the Sun In the Middle of the Day

While we know this can be difficult on a beautiful sunny day, try to keep your kids out of the sun from about 11:00 A.M. to about 3:00 P.M as much as possible. This is the time of day when UV radiation is highest and the most damage is done. Instead of telling the kids you don't want them exposed to so much UV radiation, you could be sneaky about it. Get them involved in helping you make lunch and maybe invite some neighborhood kids over during that time and let them play video games. Offer to take them shopping at the mall or perhaps take in a movie or go skating indoors.

4. Use Sun Protective Clothing Always, Not Just At the Beach and Swimming Pool

Most parents know about the UV hazards that are involved in hanging out by the swimming pool all day or going to the beach. However, UV sun exposure can be just as high, if not higher, at other places. For example, in the mountains, the UV exposure increases approximately eight percent with every one thousand feet in altitude! Here's another good example. On a cold February day, the reflection of the sun off the white snow can actually expose your child to more UV than what she would get at the beach!

Please check out our full line of sun protective clothing for kids. We have a wide assortment of designs and styles for both girls and boys, in most cases tested by our own kids who aren't shy about giving their opinions :-) We'd love to get feedback from you and your kids too. We take all comments to heart and try to incorporate what our customers need and want in future designs.

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