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Sunscreen

Sunscreen

Eighty percent of lifetime sun damage occurs before the age of 18 years, careful parents can reduce their child's risk of sun-related problems.

The EPA statistics are alarming:

  • Since 1930, there has been an 1,800 percent rise in malignant melanomas.
  • One in five Americans develops skin cancer. 
  • Excessive sun damage also increases the rate of cataracts and causes premature wrinkling.

Sun safety 101:

  • Use sun protection at all times. Even on overcast days, up to 60 percent of the sun's rays penetrate cloud cover, and 85 percent of the sun's rays reflect off of sand, water and concrete.
  • Minimize sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the sun's strongest hours. 
  • Limit outdoor activity when the ultraviolet (UV) index, published in many newspapers is 7 or higher. 
  • Children must drink extra fluids after sun exposure, even if they do not feel thirsty.

If your child gets sunburned:

  • Keep the burned skin covered and out of the sun. After a sunburn, the body produces new skin, and another sunburn increases the sun cancer risk.
  • An over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, may help, but first consult with your doctor. 
  • Cool baths with baking soda several times a day help relieve pain. 
  • Apply a soothing lotion.

What not to do:

  • Do not apply petroleum jelly or butter; they do not let air assist in healing.
  • Do not wash skin with harsh soap. 
  • Do not use over-the-counter creams or sprays with benzocaine, which often causes allergic reactions in children.

Call for help immediately if your child has:

  • signs of shock, including faintness, dizziness, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, increased thirst and, pale clammy or cool skin;
  • nausea, fever, chills or rash; or 
  • eye pain, or sensitivity to light.

Infant and toddler facts:

  • Apply sunscreen to small areas of skin not protected by clothing.
  • Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sun. 
  • If a baby under I year old gets sunburned, contact your pediatrician. 
  • Give juice or water to replace lost fluids when a baby is sunburned. 
  • Nursing mothers should nurse more often because babies younger than 6 months old become dehydrated quickly. 
  • Babies do not need sun to maintain proper vitamin D levels.

Highest risk children have:

  • a family history of skin cancer
  • freckles or many birthmarks 
  • fair skin or skin that sunburns easily.

For kids on medication:

  • Talk with your pediatrician. Some drugs cause "photosensitivity" - they increase the risk of sun damage.
  • Common drugs that boost photosensitivity are sulfa drugs and tetracyclines.

Sunscreen facts:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed areas. Most people receive only 20 percent to 50 percent of a sunscreen's advertised protection because they use too little. 
  • Re-apply sunscreen every two hours, especially if the child plays in the water, even if the sunscreen is "waterproof." 
  • Choose sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

Clothing:

  • Dress your child in tightly woven, light-colored fabrics, and in a hat with a brim.
  • Everyone, including infants, should wear sun-glasses that block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.

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