Get Sun Savvy and Prevent Sunburn
Fun in the sun is a child’s idea of a perfect day, but it can be skin’s worst enemy. Too much sun and not enough sunscreen and cover up can lead to painful sunburn that has long-term effects - from prematurely aged skin to skin cancer. In fact, just a few serious sunburns in childhood greatly increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
The key is sunburn prevention:
- Stick to the shade. Try to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If your kids must be outside, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella or a tent.
- Cover up. While long sleeves and long pants offer the most protection, they aren’t really practical - or comfortable - in 90-degree heat. Aim for at least a t-shirt and long shorts, and make sure you apply sunscreen.
- Grab a hat. Wear a hat with a wide brim to cover neck, ears, and scalp. Baseball caps are better than nothing, but you still have to cover the exposed areas like the ears and back of neck with sunscreen.
- Wear the shades. Sunglasses protect the eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life.
- Make sunscreen a part of the wardrobe. Slather sunscreen on your children every time they go outside.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months old out of the sun. If it’s completely unavoidable, it’s OK to use a small amount of sunscreen on areas that can’t be protected by clothing, such as the face and backs of hands. However, don’t use any products that combine sunscreen and insect repellant.
- Use at least SPF 30 sunscreen, and apply it generously on your child 30 minutes before he or she goes outside.
- Use a full ounce of sunscreen (a shot glass full) and don’t forget the ears, nose, lips and tops of feet.
- Look for sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB protection. Consider using sunblock with titanium dioxide, which reflects light off the skin.
- Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours even if it’s waterproof. Apply more often if your child is swimming or sweating a lot.
- Buy a new bottle of sunscreen each season for maximum effectiveness.
- Keep sunscreen handy - in your purse, in the car and in your child’s backpack or sports bag.
When Sunburn Strikes…
- Hopefully, you’ve taken all the right steps to prevent sunburn. But if sunburn happens, some simple treatments can make your child feel better. Sunburn pain should stop after two or three days, although peeling may not happen for a week after the sunburn.
- For children over 6 months, start giving the appropriate dose of ibuprofen every six hours. If anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen are given within six hours of sun exposure and continued for two days, they can greatly reduce your child’s pain from sunburn.
- Apply 1 percent hydrocortisone cream as soon as possible after sun exposure. If used soon after sunburn occurs for two days, it can reduce swelling and pain. In a pinch, use moisturizing cream until you can get the hydrocortisone cream.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and dizziness.
- Apply cool compresses to the burned area several times a day. For larger sunburns, give your child cool baths mixed with ¼ cup baking soda for 10 minutes. Be careful the water isn’t too cold and avoid using soap on the sunburn.
- If your child is burned enough to have blisters, don’t open any small closed blisters. The outer skin protects the burn from infection. If blisters break, wash with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment for three days.
- Call the doctor if severe pain persists more than two hours after giving ibuprofen, if the sunburn looks infected or if your child seems to get worse after treatment.