with thanks to Parentmedic NQ

North Queensland is home to some of the best weather all year-round. Swimming, going to the beach, boating, and enjoying the outdoors are all favourite past times for families. The beautiful weather also means that there is a chance of sunburn and protecting our children is important.

Did you know that sunburn in childhood increases the risk of developing skin cancer and melanoma? North Queensland’s skin cancer rates are the highest in Australia, and north Queensland has the highest rates of melanoma in the world. Over exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can cause sunburn, skin damage and cancer. It can be a cool day or cloudy day, and the sun can reflect off the water. It is common for the skin to be damaged without realising when any part of the body is not properly protected. It is also best to stay out of the sun between 9am and 4pm each day.

Babies under 12 months should not be exposed to direct sun as they burn more easily, and it is not recommended to use sunscreen on infants under six months. The best advice is to keep babies out of the sun to prevent sunburn.

Sunburn can vary from mild to severe and symptoms usually start within hours of exposure to the sun.

Mild sunburn symptoms:

  • stinging or aching skin
  • pinkness, or redness on light-coloured skin
  • dry, itching and peeling skin, three to eight days after sunburn

Severe sunburn symptoms:

  • severe pain
  • blisters
  • swelling
  • cramping, nausea, vomiting and headache
  • dizziness, sleepiness, fever, or low body temperature

Mild sunburn can be treated at home:

  • using paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief
  • apply a simple moisturising cream to sunburned areas
  • a cool bath or cool towels on the sunburned area can be helpful
  • children should drink extra water or oral rehydration fluids to prevent dehydration
  • do not break open blisters and if they open on their own, clean the area with water and keep them clean to avoid infection

Severe sunburn treatment:

  • using paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief
  • put the sunburned area under cool running water
  • special dressings to help the sunburn heal
  • child will need to see a doctor
  • child may need to be admitted to hospital for fluids to prevent and treat severe hydration

To prevent sunburn in children, remember the message ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’.  SLIP on some clothing, SLOP on a SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, SEEK shade when outdoors and SLIDE on some sunglasses.

Protect your children by using effective sun protection which will help to prevent future skin cancers and skin ageing.

The Cancer Council has excellent Sun Safety resources for the whole family available HERE

The information provided by Parentmedic North Qld is for general informational and educational purposes only. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance of any information is solely at your own risk.

Loretta Woodford is passionate about educating parents and carers to be confident in an emergency through her Baby/Child First Aid sessions. She is a Registered Nurse with a Master in Nursing (Education) and the Owner of Parentmedic North Qld

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