Because sunburns can cause health problems
By Ryan Redman, M.D.
The light from the sun includes ultraviolet rays. You can’t see these rays, but they can cause tanning, burning and other skin damage. It only takes about 15 minutes for the sun to harm your child’s skin. Plus, sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. This is the most common type of cancer.
The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You might want to limit how long your child is outside during this time. If your child is outside, then sunscreen can help protect him from the sun.
Try to use a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. SPF stands for sun protection factor. This is a measurement of the sunscreen’s ability to block the sun’s harmful rays. For example, using an SPF 30 sunscreen prevents burning 30 times better than no sunscreen at all.
There are two types of ultraviolet rays that can harm your child’s skin. When choosing a sunscreen, also make sure that it protects against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays. This is called a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Put sunscreen on your child about 15 to 30 minutes before he goes outside. You should reapply it every two hours. Even if your child wears sunscreen, he should not spend too much time in the sun. And always remember that clouds don’t block the sun’s harmful rays.
A waterproof sunscreen may protect your child for up to 80 minutes while he’s in the water. It’s important to know that being in the water increases your child’s risk of getting burned. This is because water reflects the sun’s rays, making them stronger.
“It only takes about 15 minutes for the sun to harm your child’s skin. Plus, sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. This is the most common type of cancer.”
During the summer, always carry sunscreen with you. Plus, you can be a good role model for your child by also wearing sunscreen when you’re outside.
The other ways you can protect against sunburn include:
- Covering as much of your child’s skin as you can with clothes.
- Having your child wear a hat that provides shade for his face, scalp, ears and neck. Baseball caps don’t protect the ears and neck.
- Making sure there is a place for your child to take a break in the shade.
- Having your child wear sunglasses to protect his eyes from the sun. This can prevent eye problems later in life.
- Making sure your child’s medicine doesn’t make his skin sensitive to the sun.
If your child has light skin, he might be more likely to burn.
It may take up to 12 hours before you notice the full effect of a burn. That means your child’s skin might look pink on the first day and burned on the second. Any change in the color of your child’s skin means it’s been damaged.
If your child gets burned, have him:
- Take a cool bath. Make sure it’s not ice-cold.
- Put aloe vera gel on the burns.
- Give him anti-inflammatory medicine, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to treat the pain.
Call your child’s doctor if the burn is really bad and if there are blisters. Don’t let your child scratch, pop or squeeze the blisters.
Ryan Redman, M.D., is an emergency medicine doctor at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Visit www.etch.com for more information.