Sunburn

Both sunburn and sunstroke are quite common in Australia and can occur at any time of year, whether it is sunny or not!

Sunburn is the skins reaction to the ultraviolet radiation (UV) in sunlight and in summer it can occur in as little as 15 minutes. Childrens delicate skin needs special attention as sunburn can cause permanent and irreversible skin damage, as well as increase the risk of future skin cancer.

Sunstroke or heatstroke – occurs when too much fluid is lost from your childs body and their core temperature rises above 40.5 degrees. In this situation their internal systems start to shut down. Sunstroke can be caused by the exposure to the sun, but can also be caused by strenuous activity or high environmental temperatures. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency and you should seek immediate medical attention.

People can feel the heat of the sun but they cannot feel the UV radiation that burns them. Common symptoms of sunburn include:

A change in skin colour. Unfortunately skin colour doesnt begin to change until after it has been burnt, so it is not a warning system. The skin will continue to change colour up to three days after being burnt.

Skin that becomes painful to touch. Even if the colour is not very obvious, childrens skin can be painful to the touch of clothing, water and people. The skin may feel hot when you touch it.

Swelling and blistering. Your child may develop fluid-filled blisters, which may eventually pop or break.

While sunburn is serious, sunstroke can cause life-threatening organ failure. Symptoms to watch out for include:

•    A very high body temperature
and a rapid pulse

•    Red, hot skin and a dry swollen tongue

•    Dark-coloured urine with a strong smell

•    A throbbing headache and muscle cramps

•    Possible nausea and loss of consciousness

There is no cure for sunburn; it is a matter of making your child feel comfortable while their skin heals. Some ways to do that include:

1.    Ensuring they keep well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water

3.    Applying cool compresses or a cool bath

4.    Avoiding the use of soap products

5.    Using pain relief, such as paracetamol

6.    Avoiding exposure to the sun until every sign of sunburn is gone

If your child has extensive blistering or pain, or develops nausea, vomiting or headaches you should seek medical treatment.

Suspected sunstroke requires immediate medical attention! You should call 000 for an ambulance and while you are waiting you should:

Keep you rchild shaded and kept cool in whatever way you can. That might involve a cool shower or bath, covering them with cool, damp cloths, applying icepacks to their wrists, armpits, groin and side of neck or fanning them vigorously

If they are unconscious, ensure that you keep their airway clear

Seek further instructions from the 000 operator

Prevention is of course better than a cure, and some ways to help prevent sunburn and sunstroke are as follows.

The five Ss! The Victorian Cancer Council encourages parents and children to remember the five Sunsmart steps, being:

5.    Slip on some sun-protective clothing

The Bureau of Meteorology issues a UV Index forecast every day; you can check the UV index for your location by clickinghere

•    Encourage your child to drink plenty of water, to avoid dehydration

•    Try to time strenuous activities for early or later in the day, while the weather is cooler

•    Stay in the shade as much as possible and keep the air circulating

•    Never leave your children in a hot, enclosed space such as a car.

•    Wear cool, lightweight clothing and a hat with a wide brim

•    Swimming or cooling down in a shower or bath can keep your childs core temperature down.

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