Just to be clear- I’m not telling you to head to the beach slathered in baby oil, or leave your child’s skin exposed to the sun for long stretches—But you can keep your kids healthier; mentally and physically, with some sun exposure.
There was a time when doctors prescribed sun exposure to treat diseases like rickets and polio. But today we know how damaging the sun can be. In fact, as parents, we are pros at blocking those harmful rays from landing anywhere near our child’s delicate skin.
The problem is we’re not just blocking harmful UVA and UVB rays, we’re also blocking opportunities for your child to produce valuable vitamin D. Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher blocks our child’s ability to produce vitamin D by more than 98 percent.
Yes, skin cancer is very real. But so is a list of other nasty diseases associated with a lack of vitamin D. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D deficiency increases a person’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and many common cancers, including breast, colon and prostate cancer. (In fact, in Canada, where long winters limit sun exposure, the percentage of these diseases is much higher, compared to southern areas like Georgia and South Carolina.)
In Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s report, Importance of Vitamin D, he says vitamin D also keeps our immune system going strong, helps fight off flu and autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. And a healthy supply of vitamin D, which has been described as a natural antibiotic, allows us to more efficiently absorb medicine.
Vitamin D deficiency has made a comeback in young children. Dr. Karen McAssey, a Paediatric Endocinologist at the calcium disorders clinic at McMaster Children’s Hospital says she is seeing more and more cases of rickets and osteoporosis in young children. The fact is, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food and supplements alone. But 10 minutes of sun exposure allows your body to produce 20,000IU (international units) of vitamin D.
And vitamin D deficiency is also linked to depression and anxiety. I see these summer days as an excellent opportunity for you to help your child build up their vitamin D and fight against the alarmingly increased statistics of depression and anxiety in our children.
I’m not saying to throw the sunscreen out with the bath water. Sun protection should be used for children on a regular basis. But Dr. McAssey recommends, “Parents should allow their children opportunities to be exposed to up to 10 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen, so that they can produce ample vitamin D.” It’s time we rethink that ‘zero tolerance’ approach to a few rays of sunshine.
I love these new picture books that embrace the joys of a day in the sun:
SURFER DOG by Eric Walters and Eugenie Fernandes (Orca Books, 2018) https://www.amazon.ca/Surfer-Dog-Eric-Walters/dp/1459814355
ON MY SWIM by Kari-Lynn Winters and Christina Leist (TradeWind Books, 2018) http://tradewindbooks.com/books/on-my-swim/
Lana Button writes for and presents to young children about finding their own brave breath, standing up for themselves, and feeling good about themselves.
Available in bookstores at http://www.chapters.indigo.ca and Amazon.ca
MY TEACHER’S NOT HERE! (Kids Can Press, 2018)
WILLOW’S SMILE (Kids Can Press, 2016)
WILLOW FINDS A WAY (Kids Can Press, 2013)
WILLOW’S WHISPERS (Kids Can Press, 2014)