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DOCTOR AT THE DESK

Summer Skin

"All about sunburns"
By: Lourdes Nena A. Cabison-Carlos, MDSummer Skin

Sunburns are the most common photosensitive reactions in kids. This condition can be linked to the fact that symptoms of too much sun exposure do not usually begin until the skin has been damaged. To be technical, sunburns are mainly caused by the sun’s UV-B radiations (290-320 nm wavelengths). Sunlight has more UV-A than UV-B, but UV-A must be encountered in very large amounts to cause sunburn. UV-A causes immediate skin darkening and is what they usually use in tanning salons. Effects of UV-B usually become apparent 6 to 12 hours after exposure; that’s typically when Junior develops redness, tenderness and sometimes blistering on sun-exposed areas. 

Sunburns usually heal on their own but certain measures can help children, especially if they’re in pain. First, take them out of the sun to avoid further skin damage. Cotton shirts provide less friction than most clothing materials, hence, are more comfortable. Cool compress over the rash helps relieve the sting and soothes the skin but should not be applied for more than 15 to 20 minutes. You can also apply topical steroid creams to help decrease the redness and inflammation. You have to check with your doctor, however, as the recommended steroid potency (these are expressed in percentage) varies from one age group to another. Emollients, like lotions, also help in keeping the skin moisturized particularly when the peeling starts (remind them not to “self-peel” to avoid infections). Preparations containing topical anesthetics are generally not recommended because they are rarely effective and may cause contact dermatitis.

As with everything else, prevention is better than cure so sun avoidance is the key. Midday (10am-3pm) is when the sun is at its peak so this is the best time to take out those board games and plan indoor activities. When they do come out and play outdoors, wide-brimmed hats offer additional protection. Apply sunscreens liberally, but pay attention to the SPF. The SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) represents the amount of time mild sunburns appear when using the sunscreen compared to when no sunscreen is applied.
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