Cancer Awareness Month Continues: Importance of Vitamin D Intake and Sun Safety

Continue reading for more insightful information and tips regarding Vitamin D and its benefits, and how to properly protect our children against the Sun.

Vitamin D
We are nearing the end of our summer months, but it is still important to get out doors and get some sunshine. Since Canadians live in the Northern Hemisphere, we tend to get less exposure to sunlight and intern less vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and muscles, especially in children and the elderly. However, there has been growing evidence that vitamin D may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers. Experts are now concerned that many people are not getting enough vitamin D.

You can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, in your diet (especially if you eat foods fortified with vitamin D), or by taking vitamin supplements.

A little sunlight can go a long way. A few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all that is needed for some people to get enough vitamin D. People do not need a tan to get benefits from the sun.

Who’s at higher risk
You’re probably not getting enough vitamin D if you:
• are over 50
• have dark skin
• don’t go outside very much
• wear clothing covering most of your skin

If you are in one of these groups, talk to your doctor about whether you should take a vitamin D supplement of 1000 IU every day, all year round. It is not recommended to take any more than these amounts because too much vitamin D can be harmful.

Also, babies who are exclusively breast-fed might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which is why experts recommend they be given a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU a day.

Sun safety and children
Children spend a lot more time outside than adults and they need to be protected from the sun’s rays.

How to protect your child
• Keep babies out of direct sunlight. Use clothing that covers their arms and legs and don’t forget a hat. Keep them protected in a covered stroller, under an umbrella or in the shade. This can also help prevent dehydration and sunstroke. If protective clothing and shade are not available, it is okay to use a small amount of sunscreen on your baby’s exposed skin (such as their face and the back of their hands). Using a small amount of sunscreen is better than risking a sunburn, which can be serious for an infant. Before applying sunscreen to your baby’s skin, test a small amount on your baby’s inner arm to see if the skin reacts to the product. If you can, check with a healthcare professional before using sunscreen on children less than 6 months of age.
• Try to keep toddlers and children out of the sun, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more.
• Send your kids to school or play in protective clothing, such as a loose-fitting t-shirt and a wide-brimmed hat (which provides more protection than a baseball cap). Don’t forget about protecting their shoulders and necks as these can get easily burned.
• Provide shade in your play area. Try a large umbrella if there are no trees.
• Always apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher to your kids at least 20 minutes before they go outside. Reapply often and don’t forget their nose, ears, cheeks and tops of their feet.
• If they’re playing in or near water, make sure the sunscreen is water-resistant and reapply often. Also make sure they put on dry clothing after playing in water as wet clothing can lose up to half of its UV protection.
• Don’t put sunscreen around your child’s eyes – it will probably sting. Try to get them to wear a hat. Or as soon as they can wear sunglasses, think about getting them a good quality pair of wraparound sunglasses (with UVA and UVB protection).
• Don’t use baby oil as a moisturizer before your child goes outside. The oil will make the effect of the sun stronger and could cause your child to burn faster.

Check out our blog next week for more great information!

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