How Much Sun is Healthy for You and Your Children? May 04 2015
Vitamin D helps bones grow, develop properly and stay strong. Children get most of their vitamin D from sunlight as well as a small amount from some foods. If you’re worried your child has a vitamin D deficiency, this guide will give you some ideas.
You can teach your children how much sun exposure in real-time when you wear a SunFriend® waterproof wrist band. It can be customized for dark or light skin. SunFriend® will flash and warn you when it is time to apply your sun block or cover up or go inside!
Why children and adults need vitamin D
Children need vitamin D for bone growth and development. So do babies developing in the womb. This is because vitamin D helps us absorb calcium.
Serious vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, delayed motor development, muscle weakness, aches and pains, and fractures.
Vitamin D deficiency in adults has also been linked to osteoporosis, some cancers, heart disease and diabetes plus a host of other diseases. Often these diseases are caused by very early onset vitamin D deficiency.
If women don’t get enough vitamin D during pregnancy, their children might develop neonatal hypocalcaemia (not enough calcium in the blood) or rickets later in childhood.
Vitamin D and sunlight
You need sunlight on your skin for your body to make vitamin D. You get about 80% of your vitamin D this way.
The amount of sun you need depends on where you live and the time of year. But no matter where you live, you have to be careful about how much sun you get on your skin. Too much sun can lead to sunburn, skin damage and even skin cancer.
You actually boost the benefits of being out in the sun for a little while each day by doing some physical activity. Daily exercise helps your body make vitamin D.
Other factors affecting how much sun you need
People with naturally very dark skin need 3-6 times more sun to make vitamin D than the amount fair-skinned people need.
It is important to note that you cannot overdose on vitamin D when obtained from the sun. The correct idea is to maximize the amount of time you spend in the sun without sunburning.
Be sun smart
Spending too much time in the sun isn’t good for your skin, so it’s important to use sun protection like a good natural ingredient broad-spectrum sunscreen or sun blocking clothing, hats and sunglasses when you have reached an optimal amount of healthy sun.
It is very important to know how intense the sun is. To find out exactly how much Ultraviolet radiation is hitting your skin, point your SunFriend® monitor at the sun for 8 seconds and push the UV Index button and watch which LED lights up. The higher the number, the more intense the sun is. This is a great way to teach children about sun safety and valuable information for choosing which sunscreen to use.
Vitamin D and food
Most children won’t get enough vitamin D from food alone. But food with lots of vitamin D can add to the vitamin D your child gets from sunshine.
Foods naturally containing vitamin D include fresh fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines), liver, mushrooms and egg yolks.
Vitamin D deficiency
Children might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency if they:
- keep all their skin covered with clothing or too much sunblock
- spend most of their time indoors and don’t get much or any sun
- have a condition affecting how the body controls vitamin D levels – for example, liver disease, kidney disease, problems with absorbing food (such as coeliac disease or cystic fibrosis and some medicines can affect vitamin D levels
- have darker skin
- have been breastfed for a long time and have a mother whose vitamin D is low.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency include rickets, delayed motor development, muscle weakness, aches and pains, fractures, and general low level immune system.
Treating vitamin D deficiency
Talk with your GP if you’re worried about your child’s vitamin D levels, or you’re pregnant and think you might have low vitamin D.
- For mild deficiencies, your GP might say that your child needs to get a bit more sun.
- If you or your child has a severe vitamin D deficiency, your GP might say you or your child should take vitamin D supplements, as well as getting more sun.
Vitamin D that you obtain from the sun is longer lasting than that of supplements. You can actually use the sunnier months of the year to build up stores. It is also why the flu season is in the winter.
Vitamin D, pregnancy and breastfeeding
A baby’s vitamin D stores go up during development in the womb and go down after birth until the baby starts getting vitamin D from sunlight along with diet. If a pregnant woman has low levels of vitamin D, she might not pass on enough vitamin D to her baby. Mothers who are pregnant during the summer are likely to have higher levels of vitamin D.
Breastfeeding babies don’t get much vitamin D from breast milk, because breast milk doesn’t have much.
It’s still OK for you to breastfeed your baby if you’re taking a vitamin D supplement.
Most cases of rickets in nowdays are in children who have dark skin.
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This story contains excerpts from “Vitamin D: What you need to know by Raising Children in Australia”. The complete article can be found at this link: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/vitamin_d.html