So here’s the challenge, sometimes the weather is soggy and sometimes it’s soaring temperatures. How do we address the issue of protecting children and teens with such diverse weather conditions?
In a way the weather flip-‐flop helps illustrate that the problems and potential damage is exactly the same. Summer sun is brutal and cloud cover shouldn’t confuse us. A dull day does not indicate a dulled sun. In the UK we wait with baited breath to see how this summer turns out, you know the kind we crave, dappled leaves, paddling, cooling down with ice creams. Don’t be fooled by duller cloudy or overcast weather into believing that one can lower ones guard when considering how best to protect young skins. In the US the need to react feels more overt.
The challenge for parents is to balance encouraging children and young teens to spend more time outside, building friendships expelling energy and having fun without inviting risk. Children’s skin is more sensitive then adults putting them at higher risk of sunburn.
According to Cancer Research UK‘Damage to the DNA of our skin cells when young, may develop into skin cancer several decades later. The most serious type of skin cancer melanoma is the second most common cancer in 15 to 34 year olds. Studies have found that sunburn during childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer later on in life ‘We have a further complex issue, the role of the fashion industry. The desirable look is honeyed and sun-‐kissed. I recently challenged a panel of cosmetic skin care experts on the topic. My question was in response to their comment that anti-‐aging skin products should be used from the age of 21 to combat ‘environmental issues’. I asked why the industry continuously showed tanned girls. Their response – models do not sunbathe, basically they will be damaging potential earnings if they spoil their skins. Therefore they are all using fake tanning products. My view is then blooming well say it explicitly on adverts. Teens want to emulate magazine imagery and can do serious damage whether by sunbathing or using sun-beds.
Our BE SAFE Checklist
Sun cream: The higher the factor the better most child care professionals advise Factor 50+. Use children’s ones, as they are less likely to contain alcohol or other additives. Re-‐apply regularly depending on what the child is doing, even once a day sun creams will get wipe off with sweat or children rubbing their skin while playing. Do not forget delicate areas such as back of neck, hands and feet.
All children need to be protected from the sun. Teaching children about the risks & good habits will help prevent problems in the future. With pre & teens, sit down discuss why sunbathing is not a good idea. Lead by example. If you lie there slathered in oil letting the sun beat down on you is it any wonder your child thinks this is okay and as a teen will copy you.
Fair, freckled or red haired children are more at risk. The sun is at its strongest from 10am – 4pm but that should be seen as a general guideline. Use shade, have an umbrella on your pushchair. Picnic in the shade, taking a sun umbrella with you in case there isn’t shade available.Every child under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. Keep children covered in light cotton clothing, there is excellent sun-‐protective beachwear available at all prices. These usually cover more of the body then usual swim suits and can be helpful for when children have been swimming but not dry enough for more sun cream yet. But do not forget the face. Hats are important. Encourage children to choose their own hat as they are more likely to wear it. Sunglasses can be used from babies upwards. Wrap around ones are good
Treating Sunburn and Using Painkillers
Symptoms usually begin 3 to 5 hours after exposure to the sun’s rays. They usually peak between 12 and 24 hours after being in the sun
Severe sunburn can produce blistering, swelling of the skin (oedema), chills, a high temperature (fever) of 38oC (100.4oF) If a baby or small child has been sunburned, or if blisters or a fever develop, seek medical advice from your Doctor.
As with any burn bathe the burnt area as soon as possible in lots of cool water. Cool the skin by sponging it with lukewarm water or by a cool bath or shower ideally for 10 minutes or more. You can use a cold compress like a cold flannel to the burnt area.
Give the child lots to drink it will help cool them down and prevent dehydration.
For mild sunburn after the cool water apply a moisturizing lotion (ones with Aloe Vera can help soothe skin) or use after sun cream.
Paracetamol can help with pain and fever or Ibuprofen can relieve pain, reduce inflammation and lower a temperature but only use as prescribed. Aspirin should never be given to children under 16 years.
Our message: Have fun outside but use sensible precautions
Co-Founder Riverside Cares
Jill Wheatcroft, Director of Training Programmes is a London based Lecturer in Child Health, available to deliver training in the UK. She has extensive experience of training children’s nurses, early years childcare professionals and families. Jill also runs a consultancy practice to help individual families.