Sun protection 101

IF May was anything to go by, this summer is setting up to be a scorcher, with sweltering days and nights. And as the children prepare for the summer break in a few weeks, it’s fitting to give some reminders to parents on how to protect them from the sun when they engage in their various activities.

Whether the plan is for lots of playtime at the pool, beach or river, excursions to the country, or trips overseas, no doubt sun exposure won’t be avoidable. As such, it’s important that as parents you take care to add sun protection to your list of things to provide, especially for your young ones who may not be able to verbally express how warm they are.

It is natural for children to desire the outdoors, especially since they live in a tropical climate. But overexposure to the sun, especially when it’s at its peak during the summer months, can lead to sunburn. Sunburn, as the name implies, is damage to the superficial layers of the skin as a result of overexposure to the sun.

Here are some tips for ensuring optimum sun protection this summer:

• Wear protective clothing. Cover exposed areas when not participating in water activities. It is thought that the thicker the fabric, the better the protection. Even while engaged in water activities, your best investment could be a rashguard set for your little one, which will not only protect against rashes caused by abrasion, but will also prevent sunburn from extended exposure to the sun.

•Use broad baby hats to shield the face, neck and upper body.

• Sun protective lip balm should be applied to toddlers and young kids.

• Use sunscreen or sun protectants formulated for children. These products now come in various preparations other than thick creams, which were the major types previously. They are formulated to protect against both ultraviolet A and B rays. Generally, the sunscreen protection factor rating recommended is 30 or more and should be applied generously 15-30 minutes before going into the sun, then reapplied every two to three hours thereafter.

• Children younger than six months should avoid direct sunlight and should be covered at all times. Avoid using sunscreen on them, however, since no tests have been done to see if it has any effect on them.

• Avoid exposure between the hours of 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, when the sun is most intense.

• Seek shade where possible and as often as you can.

• Keep them hydrated with water, ice pops or other beverages that are neither sweet nor carbonated.

Sunburn could present in a number of ways. Generally, it manifests as:

•Redness in the affected area;

• The child complains of pain in the area and often cries if you touch the area;

• Swelling and blisters;

• Headaches, fever, chills.

Pain relievers may help to control pain and discomfort but avoid application of topical painkillers, especially those containing “caine” compounds. Frequent baths and cool compresses are encouraged; and baking soda added to bathwater may offer a soothing effect. Also, moisturise and moisturise some more as this helps to soothe peeling skin. Use aloe vera gel as a soothing treatment and moisturiser.

Ensure you do not rupture any blisters that may form, as this may increase the risk of the area becoming infected.

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