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Sun Protection

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Too much exposure to the sun leads to sunburn and skin cancer. This is why it is important to protect your child when the sun shines. Smaller children with fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes are particularly vulnerable in the sun. It is easy to protect your child from the sun. Very small children should always be placed in the shade. Avoid the midday sun. Look for shade. Light clothing and wearing a hat provide good protection. Apply sunscreen with high sun protection factor (minimum 15) for children.

Most children want to play outside and go bathing when the weather is good and the sun is shining. It is good and healthy for your child to be out in the sun, but only with moderation. The sunrays can be dangerous. Too much sun lead to sunburn and skin cancer.

The number of serious cases of skin cancer has doubled in the last twenty years. First and foremost, this is because people sunbathe too much. It has been established that sunburns during the childhood heightens the risk for contracting skin cancer later in life. Therefore you should take good care of your child.

Sunburn is caused by too much exposure to the sun. The skin does not react instantly but after a few hours the skin becomes red, swollen and sore. Blisters develop if the exposure to the sun has been especially severe, and it becomes painful. In the most severe cases the child will develop a fever. A mild sunburn disappears in the course of a few days while the damaged skin flakes off. With more severe cases, where blisters develop, it takes weeks before the skin returns to normal.

It varies from child to child how much sun it can stand. Children with dark skin, dark hair and brown eyes can stand more sun than children with fair skin, blonde or red hair and blue eyes. Age also matters since small children can stand a lot less sun than bigger children.

When the sunrays hit the child’s skin, a pigment is formed and the child’s skin tans. The pigment protects the skin against the sunrays. This is why your child can stand less sun when the skin is pale, which means springtime after a long winter or if you travel south. In the area around the Mediterranean your child’s skin will burn after few minutes exposure to the sun.

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If the child’s skin has been burned you can by a crème, over the counter, which contains corticosteroid that will soothe the worst skin irritation.

What can you do?

It is easy to protect your child from the sun. Here are mentioned a few simple precautions:

  • Do not let your child stay in the sun unprotected
  • Avoid the sun between noon and 3 p.m.
  • Clothe and make your child wear a hat when it plays in the sun
  • Small children who cannot walk or crawl should never be directly exposed to the sun
  • Be extra careful by the sea
  • Be extra careful when travelling south
  • Shade is good
  • A good idea is to bring a parasol for your child
  • Always use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or more
  • If the child’s skin has been burned you can soothe by putting a wet cloth on the burned skin

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the child’s skin remains red, swollen and sore after your own treatment.

Contact the doctor immediately

If your child develops a fever.