Sunlight: Growing Healthy Kids from the Outside In

San Francisco Pediatric CareThe sun gets a bad wrap for its cancer-causing reputation, which of course is a reason for serious concern. However, pediatricians are learning more and more about the vital role sunlight plays in your child’s overall development. If fact, studies show that as kids spend more time playing indoors and in front of screens, they’re more susceptible to a host of chronic ailments.

Let’s take a look at three important ways sunshine can help you grow a healthy kid in San Francisco.

  1. It gives the gift of vitamin D.

In a previous post  we explained that sunlight is the most natural way of getting vitamin D. But how does this work exactly? When our bare skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UVB) rays, a chemical process occurs that allows our bodies to create vitamin D.

So, how important is vitamin D to your kid’s overall development? Not only is it essential for building strong bones, but it also promotes optimal muscle, heart, lung, immune system and brain health. This natural vitamin can protect your child from rickets, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and depression.

To make sure your child is getting enough vitamin D, check out this helpful post from the Vitamin D Council.

  1. It’s a natural eyesight enhancer.

Nearsightedness (myopia) is on an alarming rise among young San Francisco kids and adolescents. Childhood myopia can potentially progress with age and could lead to more serious issues later on like retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts.

So what is the cause of this increase of poor vision? A recent study reveals that children exposed to the least amount of outdoor light are more at risk of becoming nearsighted. What is the potential link between eyesight health and direct sunlight? While research is still ongoing, many pediatricians believe that UV rays have the ability to shape the human eye and impact the quality of vision. Being outside also helps to broaden and train a child’s depth perception.

To promote optimal eyesight development, we recommend that all kids spend at least an hour or two outside each day.

  1. It can boost your child’s immunity.

An exciting new study identifies sunlight as a natural immunity booster. Research indicates that the low levels of blue light found in the sun’s rays makes T cells move faster throughout the body. T cells (a type of white blood cell) are essential for building immunities because they hunt down and attack invading pathogens.

The ability to move more rapidly through the body gives T cells a better chance of fighting infections and cancer and ultimately helps to bolster your child’s immune system.

Think about it: your child can produce vitamin D and activate infection-fighting cells – at the same time – with just a little bit of sunlight.

Getting San Francisco kids enough sunshine.

City kids often lack the luxury of having a backyard to play in, so getting enough sun exposure can be difficult to come by. Here’s how you can get your kid out and about on a regular basis:

  • Make trips to the playground a part of your family’s routine. San Francisco is chock full of neighborhood parks and playgrounds. Create a set schedule so your child can play and soak up some sun after school and/or on weekends.
  • Take mealtime outside. Picnics aren’t just for leisure – they’re a great way to get some good sunlight. Also, serve meals on your porch (if you have one) whenever possible.
  • Schedule regular outdoor excursions. From strolling across our beloved Golden Gate Bridge, to touring the illustrious botanical gardens in Golden Gate Park, to basking at Ocean Beach – San Francisco’s sun-soaking opportunities are plentiful (and mostly free). 

Bask safely and in moderation.

While sunlight is beneficial, UV rays can cause skin cancer so it’s best to expose with caution. It doesn’t take much – let your kids play outside for about 10-15 minutes without sunscreen to allow for vitamin D creation and immunity boosting. When it’s time to lather them up, we recommend consulting the Environmental Working Group’s best scoring sunscreen lotions for kids. Additionally, for your convenience we sell some of our favorite sunscreens in both of our offices.

GetzWell can help you maximize your kid’s safe sun exposure.

As you can see, a little bit of sunshine goes a very long way. Contact our San Francisco office (415.826.1701) to learn more the sun’s connection to your child’s health.