Summer in Utah is brutal when it comes to your child’s skin. In fact, most sun damage occurs in childhood. Even exposure for a short time in swimwear or shorts can do real damage if your child’s skin is not protected from the sun’s damaging rays.
A nasty sunburn will leave your child’s skin warm, red and painful. It may also cause blistering, fever, chills, headache, and a general feeling of illness in more severe cases. But your child doesn’t have to be seriously burned in order to be harmed by the sun’s rays. The effects of sun exposure are cumulative – even moderate exposure during childhood can contribute to wrinkling, freckling and skin cancer later in life.
How should you treat a sunburn?
- The signs of a sunburn usually appear six to twelve hours after exposure. If your child’s burn is just red, warm, and painful, it can be treated at home by applying cool compresses to the burned areas or bathing the child in cool water. You also can give acetaminophen to help relieve the pain.
- If fever, chills, headache, a general feeling of illness, or blisters accompany the sunburn, call your pediatrician. Severe sunburn must be treated like any other serious burn; if it’s extensive, hospitalization may be required. Blisters can easily become infected, requiring treatment with antibiotics. Extensive or severe sunburn may also lead to heatstroke, which is characterized by dehydration and fainting.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming the sun is only dangerous when it’s shining brightly. It’s not the visible light rays but rather the invisible, ultraviolet rays that are most harmful. It’s possible to be exposed to more UV rays on foggy or hazy days. Exposure is also greater at higher altitudes. And keep in mind that UV rays reflect off sand, water and snow.
What’s the take-away?
- Keep your child out of the sun during the hours of peak UV rays, between10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use a sunscreen made for children with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going into the sun. No sunscreen is truly waterproof. It must be applied every one to two hours, particularly if your child spends a lot of time in the water.
- Babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight.
Have a wonderful summer, both inside and out!