Canberra parents and kids can once again safely shed their hats and sunscreen without worrying about UV causing skin damage. Hats and other forms of sun protection including sunscreen are not generally recommended in Canberra during June and July due to low (under 3) UV levels.

UV protection is important and required when spending time outdoors when UV levels reach 3 or above. However during June and July in Canberra daily average UV levels fall and remain below 3 (low), a level that is not considered strong enough to damage skin when participating in typical outdoor activities.

Cancer Council ACT is also conscious that people, including children, shouldn’t compromise their Vitamin D levels by being SunSmart when it’s not really necessary.  Vitamin D is largely created in the body as a result of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVB), and is important for good bone and muscle health. Most Canberrans, including children, get enough Vitamin D through a few minutes of typical day-to-day activity.

During the winter period most Canberrans should be able to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels when UV levels are low by seeking out some midday sun exposure most days of the week and by being physically active. For example, gardening or going for daily walks will help.

Groups that are more likely to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • naturally dark skinned people – who need more UV exposure to produce adequate levels of vitamin D as the pigment in their skin reduces UV absorption
  • people who cover their skin for religious or cultural purposes
  • elderly and people who are housebound or in institutional care
  • people who do not get outdoor for whatever reason
  • babies and infants of vitamin D deficient mothers, especially babies who are exclusively or partially breastfed.

If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels then you should consult your GP, your Vitamin D levels can be measured through a simple blood test and inadequate levels can be treated with supplements.

However there are some exceptions to the Cancer Council hats off recommendation during winter. People who work outdoors should continue to protect their skin at all times, and if you are heading into the Alpine area to ski then be aware that UV levels may be higher than those experienced in Canberra – so be SunSmart. Likewise if you are spending most the day outdoors then sun protection remains relevant even if UV levels are low!

A SunSmart Parent Tip

Take the guess work out of when you and your family need to be SunSmart each day by downloading the free SunSmart App, or check it out on the ACT Playgroups’ homepage. Remember, unlike the temperature, UV levels cannot be felt on your skin, so the only way to really know how intense UV levels are in Canberra each day is to view them online! The higher the UV level the quicker your child’s unprotected skin will burn!  To make it simple the SunSmart App emphasises what time each day UV levels are 3 and above- the time to be SunSmart!

David Wild
SunSmart Services Coordinator
Cancer Council ACT