Summer is upon us and many families indulge in lazy days by the pool or the beach during this time. However, if you’ve allowed your child to play outdoors without adequate sun protection, you’ve taken an enormous health risk.
Andrea Cambio, MD, FAAD, a board-certified paediatric dermatologist says, “It only takes one severe sunburn to potentially double your child’s chances of getting melanoma later in life. We really need to buckle down and protect our young.”
Do you remember your baby’s silk smooth skin? When your child is outdoors, the ultra-violet rays of the sun can easily damage the skin leading to wrinkles and possibly cancer in future. Always keep in mind that there is no such thing as a healthy tan because tanning is a sign of sun damage.
So quite naturally, the foremost question that may come to your mind is at what age is it right to start using sunscreen on your baby?
Prior to 6 months, it is best to avoid sunscreen usage on your baby with exception to those particular products that contain only zinc oxide as the only active ingredient. Use only on the exposed parts of your baby’s body. Additionally, use shaded clothing as the primary protection method. Regulate outdoor times by going out before 10am or after 4pm so that you can avoid the intense sun rays.
This brings us to the next question of – how much sunscreen should I use on my child and in what frequency?
Currently The Skin Cancer Foundation has not prescribed any set amount of sunscreen for growing children. As a parent, ensure that you’ve covered most of the exposed parts and have not ignored places like ears, tops of feet, backs of knees, and hands. Rub the sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going out so that the skin has had ample time to absorb the lotion.
It is recommended that you reapply every two hours. However, if your child is playing in the water or has a tendency to sweat, then application should be more frequent.
You might have difficulty in deciding on which is the best sunscreen for your child.
Cambio and pediatrician Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP, medical director for national and global affairs at the Child Health Advocacy Institute of Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, D.C has recommended, “Choose a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because the compounds are less irritating than others and do not get absorbed into the skin. These ingredients are probably the safest ones out there right now. There is some concern that other sunscreen ingredients, particularly oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate which is form of Vitamin A, may cause harm. However, both chemicals are FDA approved for use in sunscreens.”
In spite of these efforts, your child may still get sunburned.
Do not panic if that happens. Get in touch with your paediatrician especially if your child is below the age of one. If you see blisters, along with severe pain and fever and your child is over one year old, you may try some home remedies like cool baths or a moist compress that may assist in reducing immediate pain, swelling and itching. Until full recovery, ensure that your child does not wander outdoors.