Preventing and Treating Children’s Sunburns

The sun may seem like a summertime friend, but without the right protection it can also be our children’s enemy.

With our depleted ozone layer, in many ways the sun has become more of a danger than a pleasure. Long gone are the days of basking in the sun with little or no protection. Now we’re told that blistering sunburns double the chance of developing skin cancers like malignant melanoma later in life. So if we want to protect our children from the sun’s damage then we need to use more than just sunscreen, explains dermatologist Dr. G. Daniel Schacter. “Sunscreens are important, but when trying to protect a child remember they need a hat with a wide brim and we need to cover their skin with as much clothing as possible. Whatever isn’t covered you should cover with sunscreen.”

Babies under a year of age should not be put in direct sunlight. And Dr. Schacter says there are times when it’s best for all children to avoid the sun altogether. “From 11 to 3, or 11 to 4, the exposure to sun is greatest and if possible children should play indoors as long as possible. If they have to play outdoors, protect them.”

When it comes to the strength of the sunscreen Dr. Schacter says look for a higher SPF. “SPF stands for sun protection factor. Sunscreens are rated from two to fifty. The higher the rating, the greater the protection. If it’s a SPF of 15, it means they can play fifteen times as long in the sun without burning. That’s a guide. You shouldn’t spend fifteen times as long in the sun.”

If you’ve misjudged how long your child can be in the sun or when the sunscreen needs to be reapplied, then a sunburn may occur. So how do you treat it? Dermatologist Dr. Thomas Christianson says “the age old methods of keeping the skin comfortable, such as the use of cold compresses and bland cream, are the same as always. If they get to the point of erosion and sores on the skin, at that point youmay want to seek a medical opinion to make sure that there’s nothing that can be done.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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