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We all need some exposure to the sun. It’s our primary source of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. But it doesn’t take much time in the sun for most people to get all the vitamin D they need, and unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can lead to skin and eye damage, immune system suppression and cancer. Even people in their 20s can develop skin cancer. “Most children experience 50 to 80
percent of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18,” says Sue Kirelik, MD, chair of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Sky Ridge Medical Center. “It’s important that parents teach their children how to enjoy fun in the sun safely. With the right precautions, you can greatly reduce your child’s chance of developing skin cancer.” >>> continues
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Facts About Sun Exposure Both dark- and lightThe sun radiates invisible UV rays that skinned kids need cause tanning, burning and other skin protection from UV damage. Sunlight contains three types of rays because any tanning or burning causes skin damage. UV rays: Sunburn develops when the amount of UV exposure is _ UVA rays cause skin aging and greater than what can be prowrinkling, and contribute to skin cancer, such as melanoma. UVA rays make tected against by the skin’s melanin. Unprotected sun exposure is up the majority of our sun exposure. always dangerous, but even more so for kids with moles (or whose parents have a _ UVB rays, which are also dangertendency to develop moles), very fair skin ous, cause sunburns, cataracts and im- and hair or have a family history of skin mune system damage. They also cancer — including melanoma. contribute to skin cancer. Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin can“Not all sunlight is equal in UV cer, is thought to be associated with concentration,” notes Dr. Kirelik. severe UVB sunburns that occur be“The intensity of the sun’s rays depends fore the age of 20. upon the time of year as well as altitude and latitude. UV rays are strongest in summer, and certainly living in _ UVC rays are the most dangerous, Colorado increases our expobut are blocked by the ozone layer and sure. Be sure to apply plenty of sundon’t reach the Earth. screen in winter months if your family goes skiing or is playing outdoors as UV
All Skin Types are at Risk UV rays react with a chemical called melanin, which absorbs dangerous UV rays before they do serious skin damage. The
rays reflect off both snow and water, increasing the probability of sunburn.
Protect Your Child From Harmful Rays
Follow these precautions to let lighter your child’s your kids play safely in the sun: natural skin color, the less _ Avoid the strongest rays of the day. In melanin it has to the Northern Hemisphere, that’s absorb UV rays from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and protect the Clouds and pollution can give a false skin. The darker sense of protection, but they don’t filyour child’s na tura l sk i n color, the more melanin it has.
ter out UV rays. Even on cloudy, cool or overcast days, UV rays travel through the clouds and reflect off sand, water and concrete. Often
kids are unaware that they are developing a sunburn on cooler or windy days because
the temperature or breeze keeps their skin feeling cool. _ Cover up! It’s one of the best ways to protect your family from the sun. To see if clothes will screen out harmful UV rays, place your hand inside the garment. If you can see your hand through the clothing, your child won’t be adequately protected. Since babies under six months old should not wear sunscreen, they should be kept out of the sun whenever possible. If your infant must be in the sun, dress her in clothing that covers her body, including hats with wide brims to shadow her face. Use an umbrella to create shade for your baby and to provide an escape from the sun for older kids. _ Use sunscreen consistently. There are lots of good sunscreens for kids on the market, including formulas for sensitive skin, brands with fun scents, longlasting waterproof and sweat-proof versions and easy-application varieties in spray bottles. _ Choose a sunscreen based on the degree of UV protection it provides. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number on the label indicates how long you can stay in the sun without
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burning if you apply the sunscreen. If your child typically burns after 20 minutes of sun exposure, applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 gives him 15 times the protection. For kids age six months and older, choose a sun-
To help your child feel more comfortable:
screen that has an SPF of 15 or higher (to prevent both sunburn and tanning) and that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen).
_ Give the child a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin.
To avoid possible skin allergy, avoid sunscreens with PABA. If your child has sensi-
_ Apply pure aloe vera gel to any sunburned areas. It relieves sunburn pain and helps skin heal quicker.
tive skin, look for a product with the active ingredient titanium dioxide (a chemical-free block). _ Purchase protective eyewear. Just one day in the sun can result in a burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). Cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts later in life, which results in blindness.
The best way to protect eyes is to wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection. Since some children don’t enjoy wearing sunglasses, let them select a style they like. And if you wear sunglasses regularly, your kids are more likely to follow your example. _ Check your child’s medications. Some medica-
tions increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. Even kids with skin that tends not to burn easily can develop a severe sunburn in just minutes if they are taking certain medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a prescription (especially antibiotics and acne medications) or over-the-counter medications increase sun sensitivity.
If Your Child Gets a Sunburn
_ Give your child a pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and spray on over-the-counter “after-sun” pain relievers. (Do not, however, give aspirin to children or teens.) _ Apply topical moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin and help reduce swelling. For the most severely burned areas, apply a thin layer of 1% hydrocortisone cream. Do not use petroleum-based products. They prevent excess heat and sweat from escaping. Also, avoid first-aid products that contain benzocaine, which may cause skin irritation or allergy. _ Keep your child in the shade until the sunburn is healed. Any additional sun exposure will only increase the severity of the burn and increase pain. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all children — regardless of their skin tone - wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. For more information go to www.aad.org and www.cancer.org.
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and its family of locations in every HealthONE hospital brings trusted experience and proven care to you and your children. For information on parenting, health tips and more, visit www.RockyMountainHospitalForChildren.com.
Kids with sunburns usually experience pain along with a sensation of heat — symptoms that may become more severe several hours after sun exposure. Some children also develop chills. At Presbyterian/St. Luke’s
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