Summer Safety: How to Treat Your Child’s Sunburn

Pool time and outdoor play may increase your child’s chance for developing sunburn. Here are some tips from the experts at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on the best way to treat your child.

What causes sunburn?

Sunburn appears within 6 to 12 hours after the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Artificial light sources like sun lamps and tanning beds can also cause sunburns. The skin becomes red and painful, and swelling of the skin, tenderness and blisters can develop. Severe sunburn can also cause nausea, chills and malaise (“feeling sick”). The burned area remains red and painful for a few days. Later, peeling may occur as the skin heals.

What are the risks of sunburn?

Exposure to the sun can harm children even when they don’t get sunburn. Over the years, the effects of sun exposure build up and can lead to wrinkles, freckles, tough skin and even skin cancer later in life. Some medications and medical conditions can also make people more sensitive to sunlight. Since people get most of their sun exposure as children, it’s important to teach children sun safety early on so they can be protected from these problems in the future.

Sunlight contains both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn. However, UVA rays also cause damage in the long run, including skin cancer. Since tanning beds use UVA light, they aren’t healthy and should be avoided.

How is sunburn treated?

If your child has sunburn, he or she should stay out of the sun until the burn has healed completely. Once it’s healed, be sure your child is wearing sun protection, including sunscreen, before going out in the sun again.

You can control pain from sunburn by applying cool washcloths to the area. Over-the-counter sunburn sprays that contain numbing medications like benzocaine or lidocaine can help, although they may also cause irritation to the skin. You can give anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen by mouth to help with the pain. As the burn heals, apply a moisturizing lotion. Products that contain aloe vera can be helpful in soothing the skin.

How is sunburn prevented?

The sun doesn’t need to be shining brightly to be dangerous. Children can be exposed to UV rays even on foggy or hazy days, and exposure is greater at higher altitudes or when UV rays are reflected off of water, snow, sand, or other surfaces. UV rays are strongest when the sun is the most intense, so try to keep your child out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. Infants and young children can quickly develop serious sunburns.

Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Check the label to make sure the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Since no sunscreen is waterproof, you may need to reapply sunscreen more frequently if your child is spending lots of time in the water.

Appropriate clothing is also important for sun protection, such as wide-brimmed hats and lightweight cotton clothes with long sleeves and pants.

Keep babies under six months of age out of the sun and in the shade as much as possible. Avoid sunscreen in babies less than six months old.

For more information, visit umm.edu/childrens.

To make an appointment at one of our locations, call 410-328-6749.

 

Safe Summer Skin

By: Adrian Rabin, Editorial Intern

For many, the beginning of summer means spending lots of time outdoors. It’s tempting to spend full days outside enjoying the sunshine, but long hours spent in the sun can damage your skin, especially without proper protection.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer throughout their lifetime, and the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that around 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 60% of melanoma skin cancers are directly linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

Although invisible to the naked eye, the sun’s UV rays can permeate deep into the layers of the skin, damaging the DNA housed inside skin cells. Damaged cells in the deepest layers of the skin can lead to melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer with the highest tendency to spread. Non-melanoma cancers arise from damage to cells closer to the skin’s surface.

A single sunburn can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer. After five sunburns, the risk of developing melanoma doubles.

Fortunately, the most significant way to reduce this risk is within our control. Scientific research provides powerful evidence that daily sunscreen use can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center offers these tips as guidelines for summer skin safety:

Stay out of the sun. The most dangerous hours of the day are between 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, so try to plan outdoor activities for the early morning or later afternoon. Cover yourself with sun-protective clothing and sunglasses, and seek shade whenever possible.

Use sunscreens labeled as broad spectrum and high SPF. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays permeate deep into the skin, while UVB rays cause the skin to redden and burn. The Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is the direct measure of how effective a sunscreen is against the sun’s UV rays. Choose a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher for optimal protection.

Apply sunscreen thoroughly and frequently. During continued exposure to the sun, reapply sunscreen to exposed skin every two hours, and always after swimming or sweating.

Think about the everyday. Don’t skip the sunscreen even if the forecast is partly cloudy–on cloudy days, over 40% of UV rays can still reach earth. For everyday activities, adults and children over 6 months should wear moisturizers or lotions with SPF 15 or higher, which can prevent skin damage from moderate sun exposure.

Never use UV tanning beds. The rays emitted by these machines can be over 12 times stronger than the sun’s natural rays.

Examine your skin every month for abnormalities. Spots or sores that are asymmetrical, growing, or do not go away within two weeks should all be examined by a physician

No sunscreen can block all UV rays, but with proper application and maintenance, you can significantly reduce your risk of skin cancer while enjoying the activities you love and keeping your skin healthy.

For more information, visit the Skin Cancer Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.