Safe in the sun
Now the weather’s cooled down a bit, both my kids are desperate to be out in the fresh air all the time. However, the sun is still very strong and I worry that I’m not applying their sunscreen regularly enough. How can I make sure they are properly protected?
With the welcome change in weather, we’re all happy to be outdoors again. But making sure our little tykes are protected from the harsh sun is just as important as ever. We all know the drill ‘slop on the cream, slap on a hat and slip on some shades’, but how much, how often and how regimented do you need to be? And what should you do if the worst happens and your children get more sun than is good for them?
We asked Dr Kamal Akkach, an American Board Certified Specialist in Internal Medicine and Paediatrics at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqeim for his advice.
‘First of all, you should make sure the sun cream you apply is not below factor 50. Very high-factor sun creams can and should be applied even on very young infants,’ he says. Parents who are worried that sun screen contains chemicals harmful to baby’s skin should not be concerned. ‘Clinical-based trials have not produced any evidence that using sunblock is harmful to small babies. All children, if they are going out in the sun, should be wearing it.’
But how much and how often? Dr Akkach believes it’s often down to the brand you choose. ‘Parents must read the instructions on individual brands so they apply it correctly,’ he explains. ‘Very young babies and children – even at this time of year, should not be out in the sun between 11am and 4pm.’ Hmm, that can be easier said than done: little George is constantly in and out of the pool, while wee Emma objects strongly to being dragged away from the slide. ‘For older children,’ says Dr Akkach, ‘make sure you use the correct sunblock for the activity. If they are swimming, then use waterproof creams. These range in effectiveness from water-resistant, to 100 per cent waterproof. If a child is spending a lot of time in the water, make sure you re-apply the sunblock after every swim. However, if your child is just playing in the garden or the park, a re-application every couple of hours is sufficient.’
But even the best-laid plans can go awry, so should we panic if our little sun urchins get a little pink? ‘Assess the seriousness of it and treat it accordingly,’ says Dr Akkach. ‘Mild redness can be treated with moisturisers and paracetamol to ease the discomfort. More serious burns are usually accompanied by blistering – and a child may even experience sunstroke.’ Shivering, headaches and dehydration can ensue, in which case you should contact your doctor for further advice.
Children rarely develop skin cancer, but it’s a cumulative effect, and kids who get too much sun when they’re young have an increased risk of cancer later in life. ‘The older you get, the more likely you are to suffer from it. However, children’s skin – especially fairer types – is particularly vulnerable to UVA and UVB rays,’ Dr Akkach says.
Dr Kamal Akkach is a paediatrician at the Health Bay Polyclinic in Umm Suqeim, 04 348 7140.