AH, bright sunny days, family vacations, castles on the beach and splashing by the pool...the perfect vision for a summer's day. What can ruin such a wonderful scenario...that big red monster called SUNBURN! It attacks kids and grown ups alike. It is our skin's reaction to over exposure of the ultra violet or UV rays of the sun. So how do you keep this big red monster from spoiling your summertime fun? The good news is that sunburn can easily be prevented. It just takes a bit planning and awareness. Whether you're packing for a family vacation at the beach or a daycation at the shore, be sure to add sun protection gear to your packing list.
Fair skinned people need to be particularly cautious when they are out in the sun. Obviously red heads with freckles need to take cover but also fair skinned people of color must also be watchful of their sun exposure. Try to avoid being out in the sun between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the sun is at it's highest. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable. Always park little ones under an umbrella or a shady tree, make sure they are wearing wide brimmed hats and protective light clothing. Brimmed hats can be the difference between a well protected child and the child with painful blisters on their ears and neck. The best type of clothes are the ones with UV protection built right into the fabrics.
Sun screen is one way to keep the big red monster way. Check with your pediatrician or dermatologist for their specific advice and recommendations. When you go to purchase a sunscreen you will see the term "SPF" on the label with numbers ranging from 2 to 60. SPF stands for sun protectant factor. The American Society of Dermatology recommends that a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher be used year round. Read labels carefully and follow directions. If kids will be in and out of the pool or water you'll need to re-apply sunscreen a few times during the day. Be sure to also use lip protection with SPF too in order to prevent sunburn there too.
If you have teenage girls in your house, you should also be mindful of over exposure to tanning equipment. The result is red, swollen, painful and sometimes blistered skin. If severe or excessive, there can also be symptoms of chills, fever, nausea and vomiting. Long term effects include premature aging of the skin. In recent years, doctors report a much higher incidence of benign and malignant skin cancers being found in much younger people. I know I tried on numerous occassions to stop my two teen girls from heading to the tanning salon during Prom season. It wasn't until a 21 year old friend, and frequent tanning pal, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma that the message finally began to sink in.
Even with the best of precautions, the big red monster can sometimes get the better of us all. The first and most obvious treatment of sunburn is to simply get out of the sun. I know it sounds silly but you'll hear stubborn people say things like "I need a good base before I tan" or the famous "Don't worry, I never burn". If these words are coming from your kids, put your foot down. If these words come from fellow adults, tell them they need to set the example by doing the right thing. Remind these stubborn folks that it can take 12 - 24 hours for the full extent of a sunburn to show as you tell them they look like a lobster. Refrain from the words "I told you so" as you help to ease their pain by keeping effected areas cool and moist. There are several products that can help including natural based Aloe gels or Burrows Solution (aluminum acetate) which can be found at your local pharmacy...again, especially when it comes to kids, follow directions and double check with your doctor or pediatrician. Over the counter pain medications can also be helpful. If blisters appear, this is a sign of a second degree burn which is a bit more serious and certainly a time to get your doctor involved. Serious sunburns can require steroids, antibiotics and even hospitalization. In the meantime, LEAVE the blisters alone. Do not pop them. This is a body's natural defense and protection from infection. Break the blisters and there is a much higher risk of infections, further skin damage and complications. Be sure to stay very well hydrated by drinking lots of water.