3 Most Common Mistakes: Sunburns
How to keep your kids from turning into lobsters this summer. by the Babble Editors
May 21, 2009
What are the 3 Most Common Mistakes parents make when it comes to sun protection?
Expert: Dr. Belilovsky, Medical Director of Belilovsky Pediatrics
1. Assuming you’re protected when you’re not.
“Don’t think you’re safe when you’re not. If there’s a lot of just clear sky, there’s quite a bit of ultraviolet light, which does a direct job on the DNA – breaks it, mashes it, messes it up. UV light also scatters nicely off of clouds, so if you were under clouds, you could be in danger. It scatters off the rain. It scatters off of surfaces that might look non-reflective in visible light, but they may be reflective in ultra-violet light. You might be more at risk with an overcast sky, because you don’t feel the heat on your skin but it is being damaged just the same.”
2. Trusting high SPFs over parental persistence.
“So, with SPF, let’s not complicate it any further than it needs to be complicated. Get a nice, high number, lather it on, get everything and go with that. The biggest mistake is not using it at all or letting it wash off or not getting it everywhere, missing chunks. There’s little differences between 30 and 50 – if you’re using sunblock, you’re ahead of the game. I think water resistant SPF is a great idea, but kids are ingenuous at scraping it off. Parents really need to keep on top of kids. Very few kids are responsible enough to do this by themselves. Ever. Get them out of the water. Reapply. Apply before leaving. Call them into the shade every once in a while, check them. This is one of the many places where hands-on parenting is important. Kids will irresponsibly run out and play until they come back as lobsters and they won’t think about it.”
3. Thinking there’s a Plan B for sunburn.
“Yes, you can help with the pain. Antihistamines will help with some of the discomfort. Yes, moisturize. But once the burn is there, the burn is there. And whatever you do doesn’t so much treat the burn as treat the pain and keeps further damage from being done to already-damaged skin. You’re salving your conscience more than you’re salving the child. It’s the inflammatory process of the immune system doing the cleanup that causes the redness. If you’ve taken away the redness somehow, you really didn’t treat the sunburn, you’re just slowing down the immune response to clean up the debris from it. If you get second degree, which is blister formation, you’ve killed off entire areas of basal layer. Basal layer is the layer that renews the skin. Breaking that blister is not a great idea because it does protect against infections.”
As told to Emily Frost.