New Zealand is a place which, whilst it has a similar climate to the UK, actually has a significantly higher level of risk from the sun. This is for three reasons:
- There is less ozone blocking the UV rays in NZ, compared to the UK
- There is less air pollution, hence again, less stuff in the way of those rays
- The orbit of the earth takes the southern hemisphere closer to the sun during the summer, in comparison to the northern hemisphere and the UK summer.
So unless you’re keen to look like you’ve been boiled alive, taking some precautions is advised. In NZ, and the UK as well, when we have sun (hooray!). Even more so for kids, who have skin which is more sensitive than that of an adult. Here are our top tips, from hard earned NZ experience, for safe swimming in the sun:
1. Pick a waterproof, broad spectrum – blocking both UVA and UVB – sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and apply it 30 minutes before sun exposure (it can take up to that amount of time to start working). As in, stick on the sunscreen at home, THEN make your move to the pool. Unless of course you have a pool at your home, in which case I’m very envious indeed… but still, try to plan ahead. This is what happens if you don’t take heed, and only bother with some slapdash shoulder sunscreening:
Apply liberally, and reapply at least every two hours.
2. Consider investing in a UV sun suit for the kids to wear whilst swimming. These come as an all in one, or two part sets, and can be either short or long sleeved. For D, who gets cold easily and loves to swim underwater, the Splash About Surf Shortie Wetsuit is ideal, because it provides UPF50+ sun protection but also keeps her warm and comfortable when she needs to be (pesky clouds, eh!). Same goes for Little B, who is happy splashing about in her pink UV Sun and Sea Suit, which again provides UPF50+ sun protection, and is a bit more flexible, allowing her to enjoy running around in the splash parks or zip down a slide or two. This also brings me to point 3:
3. Invest in bright swimwear! Sometimes, in the glare of the sun it can be hard to spot little ones and keep track of where they are and what they’re doing. Although we generally practice the standard advice of being close enough to touch for Little B, who at 4 is not old enough to swim unaided, there are times (see the aforementioned splash park and slides) where she may end up out of our reach. Thanks to her bright pink costume and added blue and red float jacket, she remains easy to spot even in bright sunlight.
4. And finally, keep swimming to mornings, late afternoons or evenings if you can (I’m thinking about the geothermally heated pool at our motel in Rotorua here, mmm… so good!). The sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm, so swimming outside those hours is better for avoiding potential sunburn and sad, lobster-like kids.