Sunburn is caused by overexposure of the skin to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun or a sunlamp. Minor sunburn is a first-degree burn that turns the skin pink or red. Prolonged sun exposure can lead to blistering and a second-degree burn. Repeated sunburns not only cause premature skin aging, but also increase the risk of developing skin cancer in the damaged area.
Avoid sun exposure between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm when the sun’s rays are most intense. Don’t let overcast days give you a false sense of security – more than 70% of the sun’s rays permeate the clouds.
Apply sunblock and apply it often! Every time you apply sunblock to your child, you are helping prevent skin cancer in the future.
Pay close attention to the SPF. Sunblock’s sun protection factor (SPF) is an indication of the percentage of UV rays that sneak through to the skin. For example, an SPF of 15 allows only 1/15 (7%) of the sun’s rays to reach the skin and thereby extends safe sun exposure anywhere from 20 minutes to five hours. The easiest and safest approach is to use a sunblock with an SPF of at least 30.
- Apply sunblock any time your child is going to be outside for more than 30 minutes
- Apply it 30 minutes prior to sun exposure
- Give special attention to areas most likely to sunburn: nose, ears, cheeks, and shoulders
- Apply sunblock generously
- Reapply every two hours, as well as after swimming or profuse sweating
- Reapply waterproof sunblock more often: every 30 minutes or per the bottle’s directions
- To prevent sunburned lips, apply a lip product that contains SPF
- If an area of skin has been burned repeatedly, protect it from all sun rays with an opaque zinc oxide ointment
Instructions for Pediatric Patients, by Barton D. Schmitt, MD