How to prevent sunburn With a little knowledge, you’ll learn how to deal with common illnesses and conditions
How to prevent sunburn, plus ways to treat a fever
What is it?
Sunburn occurs when the skin is exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Because a baby’s skin is so sensitive and delicate, it can start to burn after just 15 minutes. UV damage cannot be seen or felt and it can happen even on cool, cloudy days. While a healthy dose of sunshine is important for everyone’s health – too little UV can lead to low vitamin D levels – too much UV exposure can cause not only sunburn, but skin and eye damage, and increase the risk of skin cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Sunburn varies from mild redness on the skin to severe blistering, pain and swelling. As the sunburn heals, it may blister, and then the skin gets dry and itchy and begins to peel.
How can it be prevented?
The best way to prevent UV damage is the good old slip, slop, slap, seek and slide. That means slipping on clothes that cover as much of your child’s skin as possible, slopping on a broad-spectrum, waterresistant sunscreen with an SPF30+ or above, and slapping on a broad-rimmed, bucket or legionnaire-style hat. “You can apply sunscreen to young babies, but we do not recommend it as the first form of protection,” says professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia. “Just apply it to small areas that are not covered, such as the face and hands.” Seek out shade for your little one, and avoid going out during the hottest times of the day (10am to 3pm). You can download the free SunSmart app (iTunes & Google Play), which tells you when UV levels are high and sun protection is recommended for your location. Lastly, slide on some shades and ensure they meet Australian standards.
What can you do?
“If your baby or child has mild sunburn, you can treat it by applying a cool, damp muslin or cloth nappy to the skin,” says Sanchia. “Offer plenty of water (or breastfeeds) as the real risk with sunburn is dehydration. For an older child, you can apply a light moisturiser, but don’t use anything that masks the skin as it will be harder to see any redness or blisters, and don’t apply to babies under the age of one.” You can also offer your child paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the pain and swelling. Make sure to follow the directions on the packet.
When to see your GP?
“For anything more than a pink tinge on the skin, or blistering, see your GP, particularly in the case of young babies,” says Sanchia. Other symptoms to watch out for include fever, nausea, vomiting or headaches.