Skin reactions to the sun

By Ara Jamasbi, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s

Living in Southern California, we are lucky to experience beautiful sunny weather practically year round. While we’re all aware of the dangers of sunburns, there are other skin reactions to the sun to be mindful of as well.

Photosensitivity is abnormal or adverse skin reactions to the sun. and If your child develops a sunburn reaction, swelling, or intense itching after limited exposure to sunlight or shows a rash or scarring in a sun exposed area (ie. face, V of neck), they may actually have photosensitivity.

Polymorphous light eruption, also known as “sun allergy” or “sun poisoning” is the most common photosensitivity. It occurs 1-2 days after intense sun exposure. It may range from small red dots to clear fluid-filled dots (vesicles), eczema-looking dry patches, large plaques/papules, or target-like lesions. The commonly involved areas include the face, neck, arms and hands where there was sun exposure. In children, it starts as dry patches on the face with red small dots, with severe itching. Lesions disappear in 1-2 weeks spontaneously if no further sun exposure occurs.

Solar urticaria is another type photosensitivity characterized by itching and redness usually after about 30 min or less of sun exposure. After several hours, the skin returns to normal. The cause is unclear, but antihistamines, corticosteroids and limited sun exposure have all been beneficial.

Phytophotodermatitis occurs when UV light reacts with certain chemicals on the skin. These chemicals can come from common foods such as limes, carrots, parsley and celery. The rash typically appears 24 hours after the exposure, and can take weeks to months to completely resolve. It may appear as a red itchy rash, but sometimes may even blister. It is usually in the pattern of exposure to the food causing the reaction, such as spattering or drips from a squeezed lemon

Don’t forget basic sunscreen practices. It is important to use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen (protecting against both UVA and UVB rays) with SPF 30 or higher. The higher the SPF, the more protection, with SPF 50 giving maximal protection. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going outside and re-applied every two hours, but more often if the child is swimming or sweating. Throw away sunscreen that is older than three years or passed the expiration date. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on often-forgotten areas such as the tops of the feet, ears and back of the neck and scalp.

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A Pediatrician’s Tips for Sunburn Remedies

Summer may be coming to a close, but in Southern California, sunburns can be a year-round issue in our sunny climate. Even though trips to the beach and afternoons spent at the pool have given way to soccer practice and school playgrounds, sun safety is as important as ever.

sunburn remedies
Dr. Daniel Mackey, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician

Sunscreen Safety Reminders

  • Everyone should wear sunscreen whenever they’re outdoors, no matter what season we’re in or what the temperature is. Since babies under six months old have skin that is especially susceptible to sun damage, they should be kept out of the sun whenever possible.
  • Apply sunscreen every two hours that has SPF 30 or higher. Reapply more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
  • Double-check your family’s medications, since some may cause an increased sensitivity to sunlight.

But what happens when you do your best to protect yourself and your family from the sun, but sunburn still happens? We spoke to Dr. Daniel Mackey, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, for a physician’s tips for sunburn remedies.

  • Use ibuprofen as needed for pain for the first few days after an especially uncomfortable sunburn.
  • A cold compress can help cool the skin. Either a damp cloth with cool water, or taking a cool shower or bath can work for this.
  • To help relieve the sting sunburn can leave behind; apply a 0.5 percent or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream to the damaged skin.
  • Aloe vera gel, or a product containing aloe vera, can help with the skin healing.
  • Drink extra fluids during recovery. On a typical day, kids up to age 8 should drink the number of 8 oz. cups of water equal to their age. For example, a five-year-old should drink five 8-oz. glasses of water every day.
  • Avoid further sun exposure while the skin is healing.

If the pain is getting worse or the skin is becoming more red or tender in the days following a sunburn, it is best to seek medical care, as your child might be experiencing an infection. Find a provider near you.

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6 Summer Sun Safety Tips

As temperatures rise and school is out of session, your family could likely be spending more time outdoors than inside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting sun exposure (and avoiding it for babies) as the best way to prevent sunburn, but when you are spending time outdoors, keep in mind these sun safety tips:

  • Everyone over six months of age should wear sunscreen whenever they’re outdoors, every day of the year. Infants less than six months old should be kept out of the sun as their skin is especially susceptible to sun damage.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF (sun protective factor) 30 at least 15-30 minutes before you go outside
  • The sun is everywhere, so apply sunscreen everywhere. Don’t forget your hands, nose and ears.
  • Reapply every two hours, and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
  • Double-check medications, as some may cause a greater sensitivity to sunlight

There are other precautions you can take to minimize harmful sun exposure. Limit time spent outdoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid tanning oils or salons- tanning increases the risk of melanoma and accelerates skin aging. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration, which could make it harder to produce sweat and cool down your body.

Learn more safety and wellness tips from CHOC’s community educators.

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Protect Your Little Ones from Excessive Sun Exposure

Before Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month comes to a close, be sure to remind your kids and loved ones that excessive sun exposure and improper protection can increase the risk for skin cancer. Check out these tips to ward off those harmful UVA and UVB (ultraviolet radiation) rays:

For babies under 6 months —

  • Avoid sun exposure.
  • Dress infants in brimmed hats that protect the face and neck adequately, lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • When adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands.
  • Should an infant get sunburn, apply cool compresses to the affected area.

For all other children —

  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear a hat with a three-inch brim, sunglasses (with 97-100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays), and clothing with a tight weave.
  • Apply enough sunscreen — about one ounce for each area of exposed skin, i.e. leg or arm. Be sure to reapply it every two hours, or after sweating or swimming.
  • Use extra caution near water as it reflects UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.

Learn more about melanoma – the most common and life-threatening form of skin cancer.

Download this CHOC sun safety tip sheet and post in your home.

 

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Beat the Heat this Labor Day Weekend

With temperatures expected to reach the 90s this Labor Day weekend, please ensure your family stays cool and hydrated to avoid the risk of heat related illness. Check out the following tips for a fun and safe holiday:

• Drink plenty of water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. By the time you or your child are thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.

• For those who participate in sports, drink extra fluids before the activity begins. Take frequent rest and refreshment breaks. Avoid strenuous activities if possible, especially if you are outside.

• Never leave children, elderly people or pets unattended in vehicles.

• Stay cool indoors. If your home is not air conditioned, visit public facilities such as shopping malls.

• Avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, a hat, and use sunscreen. Remember to reapply sunscreen often when swimming or perspiring.

• Take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.

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