Being sun smart with kids
It is no news to Queenslanders that Australia is the “skin cancer capital of the world” – something we have all heard more than once. But did you know that excessive UV light exposure in the first 10 years of life can DOUBLE THE RISK OF MELANOMA? Even in smaller doses UV light can cause both skin and eye damage.
For those parents out there of my vintage (*urgh – get out the Zimmer frames friends*) you might remember a funny little lisping seagull called “Sid” who danced across the TV and sang (now tell me if I am remembering the lyrics right):
“Slip! Slop! Slap! SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen and SLAP on a hat,
Slip! Slop! Slap! Ta daa! In the sun this summer say, SLIP SLOP SLAP!”
There was probably more to it than that, but that’s what I recall and considering it was an ad campaign back in the 1980’s it obviously got the message across pretty effectively if I am remembering the song 30 years later!
These days the ad campaign has been updated and new dimensions have been added and there are now 5 steps to smart sun protection:
- Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
- Slop on SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours when outdoors or more often if perspiring or swimming.
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your child’s face, neck and ears.
- Seek shade.
- Slide on sunglasses.
Sounds simple enough but I guess, but there are a few other things to consider.
The Royal Australasian College of Dermatologists does not recommend the widespread use of sunscreen on infants under 6 months of age (only sparing use on small areas). I would suggest that infants under 12 months of age should not be exposed to direct sunlight when the UV index is high (more than 3 – and you can check on the SunSmart app or at the Bureau of Meteorology) – or as a general rule, between 10am and 2pm.
The things we forget sometimes too is that
- Skin can burn within 7-15 minutes – and it can take less time than that for babies and infants
- Even if a baby is in shade (eg under a beach umbrella), you need to consider that there is also REFLECTED UV LIGHT that comes off the sand and water – and this also can cause sunburn. The same is true for exposed areas when in the snow. That means that even if a baby is in the shade all day, it can STILL get sunburnt. Keep protective clothing, sunscreen etc on even in the shade and take young children inside during the hottest part of the day.
- That our bodies DO need sunlight, but we are able to produce adequate vitamin D for bone health by just our forearms being exposed to sunlight for just 5 minutes a day, most days.**
Copy this link to your browser to show you how much sun, on what amount of skin, at what time of day, in which state of Australia, depending on your skin colour is needed for bone health:
What to do if SUNBURN OCCURS:
- Prevent further UV damage by keeping your child indoors.
- If needed, simple pain relief medicine, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help to keep them comfortable.
- Cool you child’s skin with cold compresses or a cool bath. Aloe vera after sun gels can help soothe and cool skin as well
- Signs of severe sunburn include blisters, swollen skin and severe pain. If your child has any of these signs, seek medical attention
- Heatstroke, can sometimes occur along with sunburn. If your child has a fever, headaches or nausea and vomiting, seek medical attention
- Ensure your child drinks plenty of water to keep them hydrated
I know that most people already know all of these things but it is always good to have a reminder. Plus, a really good friend of mine (who is also a doctor) took one of his kids to the beach, kept him under an umbrella and the baby got sunburnt in 20 min from reflected light off the sand!! It happens to the best of us – and I don’t want it to happen to you and your children!!!
Until next time – stay sun safe!!!!!
xx Dr Megs
For more from Dr Megan Yap visit her blog – Kids Health Guru