Monday, July 6, 2009


The most common photosensitive reaction in children is acute sunburn and the best treatment for sunburn is prevention.

The sun is one of the most important things that keep our planet alive. We get our vitamin D from the sun from its conversion of cholesterol in our body, this helps absorb calcium for healthier teeth and bones. As we say too much of a good thing is not too good either, it does not take long of sun exposure to cause damage. This can cause skin damage, eye damage, immunosuppression and cancer.

The invisible ultraviolet rays of the sun can cause tanning, burning and other skin damage.

  • Ultraviolet A causes skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer such as melanoma

  • Ultraviolet B causes sunburns, cataracts and immune system damage, they contribute to cancer

  • Ultraviolet C are most dangerous but fortunately it is totally blocked by the ozone layer

Melanin: Our protection from the Sun

Melanin is our defense from the sun because it absorbs the dangerous UV light before it can cause serious damage resulting in a darker color or a tan but with constant exposure this can still result in a sunburn. Children vary in susceptibility to UV light depending upon their skin tone the lighter they are the less melanin they have.

Sun-reactive Skin Types

Type Demographics Sunburn, Tanning History

I red hair, freckles and Celtic origin Always burns easily with no tanning

II fair skin, fair-haired, blue-eyed and white usually burns with minimal tanning

III darker skinned white sometimes burns, gradual light

brown tan

IV Mediterranean backgrounds minimal to no burning, always tans

V Middle eastern white, Mexican rarely burns, tans profusely dark

Oriental brown

VI Black Never burns, pigmented black

Avoidance is the best Prevention

Avoid the most intense heat of the sun between 10:00am to 4:00pm. Make sure to apply sunscreen if they are exposed to sunlight. Try to avoid exposure of infants to the sun because they burn more easily because of their thinner skins. Make sure you cover-up infants and you may put sunblock on the exposed areas. Make sure you have umbrellas to cover everyone from the sun exposure from time to time.


Select a sunscreen with at least a SPF(Sun protection factor) of 15 or higher to prevent sunburn and tanning. Select one that is broad-spectrum that protects from UVA and UVB rays. If your child have sensitive skin avoid sunscreens with PABA and instead look for one with titanium dioxide as an active ingredient.

  • do not skimp on sunscreen make sure you got good coverage, experts suggest to start of on a lotion as a base and you can use the spray for reapplication every 2-3 hours

  • apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure

  • apply a waterproof sunscreen and do not forget the eyelids, back of the neck, lips, hands,ears, feet and shoulders

  • need to wear sun-glasses with both UVA and UVB protection

First Aid for Sunburn

  • keep away from the sun into a cool shaded area, additional sun exposure will aggravate the burn

  • have your child take a cool bath

  • apply pure aloe vera gel to any sunburned areas

  • pain reliever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) do not give aspirin to children and teens this can result in liver problems

  • apply 1% hydrocortisone to inflammed areas (do not use topical benzocaine, this can cause skin irritation or petroleum-based products, they prevent excess heat and sweat from escaping)

Call your pediatrician if:

  • Sunburn is severe resulting in blisters

  • child has unexplained fever of higher than 102F

  • the skin looks infected

  • trouble looking at the light(sunburn in the cornea)

  • fever or chills after sunburn

  • signs of dehydration (increased thirst or dry eyes and mouth)

  • sunburn covering a large area

  • facial swelling from sunburn

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