Vitamin D is an essential prohormone for the absorption of calcium in the body. In fact, it helps stimulate bone growth in children, while strengthening their immune and nervous systems. It also plays a key role in muscle development and sleep. The vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a problem that arises from the lack of mineralization of bone and cartilage growth.
For this reason, the World Health Organization recommends that babies under one year of age receive 400 IU daily of vitamin D and children between one and 13 years old 600 IU a day. An amount that can be found through some foods such as fatty fish, oils derived from fish or foods enriched with vitamin D, and mainly through sun exposure.
The ideal time children should spend in the sun to produce vitamin D
Scientists from the Solar Radiation Research Group of the Polytechnic University of Valencia determined the time that children must spend in the sun to produce vitamin D without damaging their health. The study published in the journal Science of the Total Enviroment analyzed the ultraviolet irradiance between 12:30 and 13:30 during a month of each season of the year, from 2003 to 2010. They also calculated the minimum time of solar exposure to obtain the recommended dose of vitamin D, as well as the time it takes for the sun’s rays to produce erythema, that is, sunburn.
The results revealed that, in the hottest months, between April and September, it is enough to sunbathe for about 10 minutes for the body to produce the recommended dose of vitamin D. On the other hand, in the autumn months, when the intensity of the sun begins To weaken, children need to be exposed for half an hour a day to produce the vitamin D they need. Likewise, in the winter months, they need an average of 130 minutes in the sun for the body to produce the recommended amount of vitamin D. This is because in the winter months the sun’s rays are weaker and, furthermore, children are only exposed about 10% of your skin, making it difficult for the skin to absorb solar radiation.
However, it is important to note that vitamin D production also depends on the time of day that children sunbathe: first thing in the morning or at the end of the day it is less effective than during the middle of the day. working day. They can also produce more or less vitamin D depending on other factors such as the amount of clothing they wear when they are in the sun or their skin color.
How much sun is healthy for children?
As a general rule, children with lighter skin make vitamin D faster than those with darker skin, but they also burn more easily. For example, red-haired children with very light skin almost never get a tan and burn very quickly, on the other hand, brown-skinned children do not usually burn so easily and tan without difficulty while dark-skinned children, Afro-descendants, do not. they tend to burn easily.
However, regardless of skin type, sun exposure time is also important. In this sense, the study revealed that in the winter months, children can spend an average of 150 minutes in the sun without the ultraviolet rays affecting their skin, while in the spring and summer months they can only spend an average of 29 minutes in the sun so as not to burn. Obviously, this can also vary depending on the time of day you sunbathe, in fact, to avoid sun damage, experts recommend avoiding sun exposure between 11 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, especially in the summer months.