16 September 2019
Family gatherings outdoors can be fun, but care must be taken in relation to sun protection, especially for children. Photo: Internet
Family gatherings outdoors can be fun, but care must be taken in relation to sun protection, especially for children. Photo: Internet

How to protect your children from the sun

Outdoor family gatherings in the sun or on the beach are good for children, but there is one element that must not be overlooked: sun protection. Here are some tips for a happy family outing:

1. How to choose the right sunscreen products?

It is important to pay attention to the instruction labels on sun protection sprays, ointments or medicinal oils. Do a patch test on your children’s arms or wrists first to see if the product causes any redness or rashes a few hours later. Choose only the product your children feel comfortable with.

There are two main types of sun blockers, namely the physical and the chemical ones. Physical blockers, which contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to scatter ultraviolet rays, are usually less likely to cause skin irritation. Chemical blockers, on the other hand, absorb and alter the ultraviolet rays, and thus give better sun protection performance. But the shortcoming is that they tend to irritate the skin.

It is recommended to stay in a shaded area and reduce the time of sunlight exposure. Wear sun-safe clothing and sunglasses, and reapply sunscreens from time to time, especially between 10 am and 4 pm when the UVB radiation is the strongest.

2. How much of the sunscreen and where to apply it?

While the recommended amount of each sunscreen application for adults is one ounce or 30 milligrams on easily burned areas, dermatologists have yet to release an official dose for children. Two points to be certain are: do not forget areas like the nose tip, the forehand, cheeks, ears, and the back of the feet, knees and hands. Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out, to ensure skin absorption, and reapply it every two hours or less in case of heavy sweating or playing in the water.

3. When to see a doctor after getting a sunburn?

a. Mild sunburn: If sun blisters have not developed yet, use painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen every six to eight hours for two days. Start the medication earlier for better relief. Do not give aspirin to children as it might trigger Reye’s syndrome. Cancel any outdoor activities during the course.

b. Lay a dampened washcloth on the affected area. Shower in cold water regularly, for around ten minutes each time. Avoid using soap.

c. Apply moisturizer or topical steroid cream on burnt area, but avoid ointment, as it may clog the pores and sweat glands.

d. Drink lots of water to avoid body dehydration.

e. Do not pop any blisters as this may cause infection. Treat burst blisters with antibiotic ointment.

In case of severe pain, infection of burnt area, fever (body temperature reaches 40C), eye pain or further development of blisters on the face, seek a doctor immediately.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 7

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FHKAM (Paediatrics)