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Sunday, December 08, 2019

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Fun In the Sun

Now that the academic year is over, it is time to have fun and enjoy summer activities. Sun is the primary source of Vitamin D; it helps us absorb calcium for stronger and healthier bones. However, unprotected exposure to sun rays can have harmful effects on the child's skin. Therefore, it is important to build safe sun habits into your family daily routine and shield children's skin against the damaging effects of the sun.

This article will put under spotlight the harmful effect of sun exposure, its effect on the child's skin, ways of protection and the intervention in sunburn cases.

Facts about sun exposure

The sun radiates light to the earth, and part of that light consists of invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays. When these rays reach the skin, they cause tanning (darkening of skin color), burning, and other skin damage.

Sunlight contains three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC

  • UVA rays are the major reason for skin tanning; however, they cause skin aging and wrinkling and contribute to skin cancer.
  • UVB rays are dangerous. They cause sunburns, cataracts (clouding of eye lens), and immune system damage. They also contribute to the most dangerous form of skin cancer: Melanoma.
  • UVC rays are the most dangerous, but fortunately, these rays are blocked by the ozone layer and don't reach the earth.

Protecting skin from the sun during childhood and adolescence is important in reducing skin cancer probability later in life.

How can you protect your children from the harmful effect of the sun?

  1. Plan outdoor activities outside peak UV times : In most cases between 10am and 4pm .Ultraviolet radiation levels are highest in the middle of the day and skin would burn more quickly during this period than in early morning or late afternoon. Even if the day is not hot and the sky is cloudy, it is still possible to get sunburns since clouds do not stop UV rays.
  2. Use hats and clothing: Broad brimmed hats that cover the face, neck and ears can reduce UV radiation to these areas by about 50%. Children should also wear loose, comfortable cotton clothing that protect the arms, legs and body from UV radiation.
  3. Encourage children to play in the shades : It is preferable that children play under the trees or any covered area in temporary or permanent shades. In rather white and sunny areas (Around the pool for example), UV rays can be reflected and hence remain harmful even when in the shades, so use proper clothing and sunscreen as well.
  4. Use a water resistant sunscreen having a Sun Protection Factor superior to 15 (SPF> 15) : Apply sunscreen liberally 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. Repeat at least every two hours or after sweating or swimming as sunscreen is easily wiped or sweated off. Do not use sunscreen as the only form of protection nor to increase the amount of time normally spent in the sun.
  5. Use sunglasses to protect the eyes : Make sure that sunglasses are designed to be close fitting around the eyes. Suitable sunglasses should block out 100% of UV rays.
  6. Drink plenty of water while staying in the sun . Water will help maintain the body well hydrated.
  7. Be a role model : Since children copy those around them and learn by imitation, if you adopt sun protection behaviors the children in your care are more likely to do the same. In addition to being a role model, the following methods might be helpful in teaching children healthy and safe sun habits:

SLIP! SLOP! SLAP! ® (Mentioned by the American cancer society in “safe sun habits”)

  1. Slip on a shirt: Wear protective clothing when out in the sun.
  2. Slop on a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  3. Slap on a hat that shades the face, neck and ears.
  • ABCS for fun in the sun:
  • A= Away. Stay away from the sun in the middle of the day

B= Block. Use SPF 15 or higher sunblock

C= Cover up. Wear a T-shirt and a hat

S = Speak out. Talk to your family and friends about sun protection

What to do if your child gets sunburn?

  1. Keep your child in the shades until the sunburn is healed. Any additional sun exposure will only increase the severity of the burn and increase pain.
  2. Have your child take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin to help alleviate pain and heat.
  3. Apply pure Aloe Vera gel (available in most pharmacies)
  4. Give your child a pain reliever like acetaminophen (Panadol) or ibuprofen and spray or over the counter “after sun” spray relievers.
  5. Apply topical moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin and help reduce swelling.

If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your child's doctor. Child should not scratch, pop, or squeeze the blisters that become easily infected.

Being a good role model is primordial in helping our children acquire healthy sun habits; this will result in decreasing the damaging effects of the sun on our youth.