10 FAQs and pitfalls on children in the sun


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10 pitfalls & FAQs leading to kids’ sunburn – big ouch!

Ouch – that’s gotta hurt!

For an Emergency Medicine Doc, I’m pathetically squeamish about sunburn (I come over all faint and it’s all a bit embarrassing!). Despite factor 30 – I got burnt in the early May sunshine yesterday. How? I’m paranoid – how could I get caught out?

1.We try to catch a tan at the start, using inadequate protection. It doesn’t work, and often it wrecks the holiday due to pain or needing to keep covered up.

2. It’s windy – doesn’t make the sun much stronger, but you don’t feel yourself burning (this is what caught me out). Solution is to take note that risks are higher, and to spend less time in it.

3. Water – washes off suncream, but more easily forgotten is the reflection from water surfaces which magnifies the rays.

4. Not putting cream on early enough. It wipes off if you slap it on and then sit on a towel that wipes it all off. It takes a good 30 minutes to start to work – you can burn in strong sunlight in the time it takes to work.

5. Time of day. Most folk know to avoid middle of the day but can forget to use any protection at either end of the day. You can still burn at either.

6. Damage from burning is more intense the earlier in childhood it happens, partly as it’s still developing, but also DNA damage has more time to develop into something nasty the longer it’s there. If it happens really early or you get to live to a ripe old age, it is more likely to cause problems.

7. We tend to remember cream for short intense bursts, but forget in the daily cumulative exposure. Damage early on just using UVB protection leads to wrinkles and other forms of sun damage – skin care ranges have cottoned on to this and push for daily SPFs

8. We forget that burnt skin becomes more fragile and more likely to burn again.

9. We don’t manage burns well. We forget to use tepid or cool showers / baths. Often 8 hr cream (Elizabeth Arden) is a great treatment (don’t wear it out in the sun!). Moisturisers are important for when burnt skin becomes itchy or peels.

10. We try and max out on the rays on the last day – or worse still, dilute the dregs of the cream in moisturiser to make it stretch. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t mix evenly so though some parts may be partially protected – others burn badly.

Good luck – enjoy the warmth of the sun. Lap up the Vitamin D, but please be careful. And if come to me with a sunburnt child I’ll ask a colleague to see you because I’ll likely have turned green!

The Aussies are the pro’s at this, SLIP, SLAP,SLOP, SLIDE is a great slogan. You can’t buy less than factor 30 there and people berate you in the street if you are burnt. A culture change – but their melanoma rates have fallen dramatically.

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