Playing in the sprinkler sounds like a perfectly fun and reasonable thing to do on a sunny day. Children love it! Even Mom and Dad can have fun as they spray their screaming, laughing kids (and themselves) with the hose. All in all it is great summer fun for the whole family. The children will be wonderfully exhausted afterwards, and usually go to bed early. Summer is a great time to be outside, to be at the pool and play in the water. It’s the time most of us go on vacations – often to the beach or other sunny places. So, being safe in the sun is incredibly important to ensure that we are just having fun and that no harm will come from it.
Everyone enjoys a summer in the sun, but some people don’t realize the potential dangers. With skin cancer being the most common form of cancer in the United States, it is vital to protect your kids (and yourself) from too much sun exposure. About 76,700 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. However, melanoma is the most common skin cancer in children. About 7 percent of cancers in children 15 to 19 years of age are melanomas. This disease is very rare in younger patients. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Depending on the study you read, anywhere from 23-80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to the sun occurs before age 18, so it’s important to limit the ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure to your child’s skin. Prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun is thought to contribute to skin cancer and precancerous skin conditions.
To protect your child, here are some things you can do…
- Use sunblock on everyone over 6 months old Ideally, babies under 6 months should not spend time directly in the sun. Since babies’ skin is much more sensitive than adults, sunscreens should be avoided if possible. Instead, the AAD says the best sun protection for babies is to keep them in the shade. Use a waterproof sunscreen of SPF 45 or higher. Make sure that it’s rated to protect against UVA and UVB rays. If you’ve been in the sun or water, you should reapply waterproof sunscreen every two hours. Even on cloudy days, apply sunblock because ultraviolet rays penetrate the clouds and are still being absorbed by our skin.
- Tightly woven clothing in dark colors provides the best protection from the sun. Wear long sleeve sunshirts and pants that protect against UV rays.
- Wide-brimmed sunhats are useful, especially the kind that extends down to cover the back of the neck.
- Choose sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays.
- The sun is strongest — and most dangerous — between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises staying out of the sun during these hours. if possible. If your child’s shadow is shorter than your child, then the sun is very strong and it’s time to find shade or be indoors.
Give extra water and fluids to prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeinated fluids which can actually cause dehydration because caffeine is a diuretic and makes your body need to urinate more.
- And now, scientists are beginning to uncover why redheads — and probably the non-gingers who carry a genetic variant common to redheads — may be so vulnerable: For those who carry an allele, or gene variant, associated with red hair and freckles, cancer-causing genetic mutations occur at a rate 42% greater than they do for people who don’t carry that gene variant. they are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer.
- In 1969, melanoma pioneer Dr. Wallace Clark and colleagues proposed that melanoma behaves in a “somewhat less malignant” manner in women than in men. Over the ensuing four decades, worldwide data have confirmed higher melanoma mortality in males compared with females.
- More than 100 types of tumors are clinically apparent on the skin; many are known to have familial and/or inherited components . Your child is also at a higher risk for melanoma if you have a family history of skin cancer.
Remedies for Sunburn
Despite your best efforts to protect your child from the sun, he/she may end up with a sunburn. Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix for this. Sunburns can take several days to heal and the full extent of the burn is sometimes not visible until 12-24 hours after the sun exposure. A few things to try if this happens…
- For a baby under one year old, sunburn should be treated as an emergency. Call your doctor immediately.
- Cool it down – a cool bath, placing cool towels or cool compresses to the sunburned area
- Aloe or moisturizing creams – put the cream on a on small area of skin first to make sure that your child is not allergic to aloe or the ingredients in the cream.
- Do not use benzocaine numbing sprays, especially on children under two years of age. Rarely, benzocaine can cause a disease that prevents oxygen from being carried on red blood cells in the body correctly.
- Do not pop blisters open – the skin on the blister protects the immature skin underneath from infection.
- Taking Tylenol or Motrin for pain can be helpful.
- Dabbing on plain calamine lotion may help, but don’t use one with an added antihistamine.
Familiarize yourself with the rules of sun protection, and make sure that no matter where you child goes – daycare, play dates, nursery school – sun safety is taken into account.
Symptoms That Require a Call to the Doctor
Call your child’s doctor if there is severe sunburn that covers a large portion of the body with blisters, or if your child also has one of the following symptoms…
- Confusion, paleness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps or pains
- If your child shows signs of needing more fluids. the child has sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and they pass only a little dark urine.
- If the sunburn doesn’t respond to at-home treatment.
Luckily, with good care, you can prevent sunburns and keep your child’s skin safe!
Contact us (859-647-6700) for more information!
The Whole Child Pediatrics provides pediatric primary care that helps children thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. We give our patients and their families one-on-one, personal, and comprehensive evidence-based medical care. We serve the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area and have hospital privileges at St. Elizabeth South, St. Elizabeth West,and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
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