Why we need to get some sun
As the Cancer Council phrase it, “the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation is both the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D. In Australia, we need to balance the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Sensible sun protection does not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.” Getting the right balance has been the subject of much research and debate between medical practitioners.
What does Vitamin D do?
UV exposure produces about 90% of our Vitamin D (the other 10% comes from foods like eggs and fish). In simple terms, Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium it needs to keep your bones and muscles strong and healthy. Low vitamin D levels can lead to osteoporosis and increase the risk of falls and fractures in the over 50’s. In children, moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets (soft bones).
In countries where there are extremely low levels of UV in winter months (the Orkney Islands and Norway, for example) there appear to be links to specific conditions like MS. However in Australia, for people who are able to live an active lifestyle, there appears to be adequate sunshine, even in the winter months in the Southern states.
How much time should we spend in the sun each day?
The amount of time you should spend in the sun to get the requisite levels of Vitamin D varies according to three factors. Where you live. The time of year. Your skin type.The handy table below comes from Western Australia, setting out guidelines for how much unprotected sun exposure you should get in any one day, to produce the requisite amount of vitamin D.
|Fair skin||10 minutes||20 minutes||30 minutes|
|Dark skin||20 minutes||60 minutes||90 minutes|
Source W.A. Department of Health
It is also worth checking the UV index, and the rule of thumb is that if it is over 3, you should employ sun protection. And remember that infant skin is particularly vulnerable.
Kids and Covering Up
Across the summer months, keeping kids protected from high UV rays is important; using hats, clothing and sunscreen for most of the day to avoid the risk of sun burns. Most will easily get the 10-20 minutes of sun per day required to produce adequate levels of vitamin D.
In the winter, you still need to be careful. Depending on where you live, around 60 minutes of sunshine may be good, but it's easy to make mistakes. Kids that play sport morning and afternoon, beautiful winter sunshine disguised by a chill breeze, activities on or near water or snow fields where the UV rays get reflected. All of these and can easily lead to unintended skin damage. As parents ourselves, we try to keep an eye on the UV index, and err on the side of caution.
And if in doubt or concerned about you or your Childs Vitamin D levels, speak with your qualified medical professional.
For further information, visit https://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/vitamin-d/
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Photo credit: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322143.php