After a long winter of short daylight hours filled with cold, clouds and snow, summer has finally arrived bringing with it longer daylight hours with lots of sun. We can now be outside playing, going to the beach and playing sports. With these activities, particularly when the sun is directly overhead, comes the danger of sunburn. Sunburn with blistering during childhood increases the chance of developing skin cancer as an adult. The Ultraviolet A waves also causes wrinkling and aging of the skin which becomes a problem as your child grows into adulthood. Ultraviolet B rays have been shown to predispose one to cataracts. Sun exposure is a greater risk in children with very fair skin and hair. It is therefore important to protect our children from sun exposure.
A sunscreen should be chosen that will protect from both ultraviolet A and B rays (UVA, UVB). It should be reapplied after 2 hours and after swimming or use a waterproof sunscreen if you are planning on going swimming. Sunglasses which block ultraviolet waves can be used to protect the eyes. Older children can use a baseball hat or other hat with a brim to block the sun as well as using protective clothing. Some clothing is now manufactured to block some UV rays and can be found at sporting goods/camping stores.
The best protection for babies less than 6 months of age is avoidance. If it is impossible to keep the baby covered or in the shade, sunscreens can be used only on the exposed areas such as the hands and the face and should be at least SPF 35. Try to avoid sensitive areas such as around the eyes. It is a good idea to apply a small amount initially to make sure your baby does not react to it.
If your child gets sunburned, treat the burned area with cool, wet compresses. This should relieve some of the discomfort and cool the sunburned area. Treat the pain with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. An Aloe Vera gel can be applied to the skin for comfort and healing. Do not go back out in the sun until the sunburned area has healed. Often it is a good idea to leave any blisters intact to prevent infection and allow the underlying skin to mature.
Allergy to Sunscreens
Children can develop an allergic rash from sunscreens. Often such a reaction will occur in areas covered by the sunscreen. An early ingredient in sunscreens, PABA (Para-amino benzoic acid), was commonly associated with allergic reactions and has been removed from many sunscreens. Other ingredients in sunscreens, including “hypoallergenic” sunscreens have also been shown to cause rashes including the fragrances that are often present. A listing of the offending chemicals can be found at: http://allergies.about.com/od/contactdermatitis/a/sunscreens.htm
For people allergic to sunscreens physically blocking agents which contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be used.
If you have any questions, please call our office.