Protecting against sunburn can save your child from cancer :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::Even waterproof sunscreen needs to be reapplied each hour on the beach.
Summer is the time for kids to have fun in the sun, but you have to remember too much sun means a sunburn, which is harmful.
"What you do early has an effect later," says Dr. Sarah Chamlin, assistant professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Children's Memorial Hospital. "Each sunburn or episode of excessive sun exposure increases your risk of getting skin cancer. That can be melanoma skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma skin cancer is becoming more common in teens and children."
Keeping a child out of the sun as much as possible during high exposure hours-from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.-and applying sunscreen with at least as SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 are the best protections.
Children with lighter skin, hair and eye color are most susceptible to burns. Individuals with a family history of skin cancer should take extra precautions. "Use your head about the time in the sun and minimize exposure," advises Dr. Thomas DeStefani, chairman of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center.
Physicians stress the importance of reapplying sunscreen regularly on children. Waterproof sunscreen is best when swimming or sweating, but it lasts only about an hour. In addition to sunscreen, a child should wear long pants, shirts with sleeves and hats with at least a 2-inch brim.
"Clothing works better than sunscreen because it can't wear off," DeStefani says.
The sun is more intense at the beach, where the water and sand reflect more sunlight, leading to a faster burn. Sunglasses should also be worn to block harmful ultraviolet rays.
"The prime time to burn is when you feel cool," DeStefani says. "You don't realize you're burning."
Babies under 6 months should not be exposed to sun. Their delicate skin is susceptible to a burn.
If your child gets a sunburn, doctors recommend keeping the area clean with a mild soap to protect against infection. Apply moisturizing lotion, cold compresses and take ibuprofen to relieve pain and discomfort. For a severe sunburns with blisters, call the pediatrician.
But prevention should be the first step.
"Once a sunburn occurs, we don't have treatments to turn back the effects of it," Chamlin says. "I tell parents that wearing sunscreen should be like having children brush their teeth or wearing a seat belt. It should become a habit."
For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology Web site, www.aad.org.
Amy Smith, Medill News Service.