A little ray of sunshine….
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, muscles and in the prevention of osteoporosis. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D; essential for strong bones and overall health.
So how do we ensure that we protect our kids from skin cancer but at the same time ensure that they get some sun for vitamin D? By taking a balanced approach to UV exposure, we can help with vitamin D levels and minimise skin cancer risk.
In the southern parts of Australia, UV levels are low (below 3) for most or all of winter. During this period, Australians need to expose their face, arms and hands (or equivalent area of skin) to midday winter sun for 2-3 hours spread over the week. That’s about 20 minutes a day. Those with naturally very dark skin may need 3-6 times this amount. Sun protection is not required during these low UV periods, unless near highly reflective surfaces such as snow, outside for extended periods or if the UV reaches 3 and above.
In the northern parts of the country, UV levels remain high (3 and above) all year around and sun protection is always required. In southern states, UV levels are high during the spring and summer months. During these periods, you need just a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure each day to the face, arms, hands (or equivalent area of skin) for vitamin D. Be extra cautious in the middle of the day when UV levels are most intense. People with naturally very dark skin may require 3-6 times this amount of sun.
So how do you know when you the UV is above 3? That’s where SunSmart’s handy smartphone apphelps! Download it for free and check it daily to find out when you do and don’t need sun protection. It also includes a vitamin D tracker tool so you can find out if you are getting enough UV exposure for vitamin D.
Sun exposure alone may not be a sufficient source of vitamin D for some sections of the population, such as people with naturally very dark skin. If you are worried, talk to your GP. Levels can be tested with a simple blood test and options such as supplements can be discussed depending on your individual circumstances.
Top tips for getting the balance right!
• Get in the habit of checking the daily sun protection times for your location using the app. The sun protection times occur when the UV is forecast to be three or above and therefore when sun protection is required. If the UV is below three, no sun protection times are issued and sun protection is not required. At these times, make midday sun exposure a priority.
• Physical activity assists with production of vitamin D, so if you’re in the southern parts of Australia, get your kids outside and active in the middle of the day in winter.
• Clothing acts as a barrier to vitamin D absorption, so if you’re in the southern parts of Australia, put away the hat and roll up the sleeves when you’re at the playground in winter.
• Visit the SunSmart website where your family can create a personalised vitamin D poster and learn about UV and vitamin D at the same time.
• Track your kids sun exposure using the free SunSmart app or online at sunsmart.com.au.
• Remember if you are heading to the snow, sun protection is still required.
For more information, visit sunsmart.com.au.