Why it’s so important to protect children from sunburns

Bad sunburns can raise risk for skin cancer

Just a single bad sunburn in childhood can raise the risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

DETROIT – Just a single bad sunburn in childhood can raise the risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

That’s why parents need to make sure their children are adequately protected with sunscreen, and remember to reapply the sunscreen as the day goes on.

“Studies have shown that most of our sun exposure happens in childhood. We’re running around outside playing. We’re playing sports. We’re outside a lot and that’s when we get a lot of our sun exposure. So it’s really important to think about sunscreen and protection at a very young age,” Cleveland Clinic dermatologist Dr. Melissa Piliang said.

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Piliang said regardless of the type of sunscreen you’re applying to your child, you need to use a good coat that requires rubbing in. Waxy sunscreen sticks are a good option for childrens’ faces because they go on easily, stick well and won’t run into their eyes.

Kids and parents often prefer a sunscreen spray, but if you use a spray product you need to make two or three passes to get a nice shiny coat -- and then still rub it in. Piliang said you can let your kids take over once they’re old enough.

“When they could, I would let them spray themselves while I was watching. I think it’s good for them to have that control and then they form the habit of just doing it themselves. I would just have them go out in a well-ventilated area and watch them to make sure they didn’t miss any areas,” Piliang said.

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Piliang said it’s important to make sure your children understand why sunscreen is so important. A recent survey found a third of Americans failed a basic quiz on sun exposure and young adults did the worst.

If it’s a constant battle to sunscreen your children, experts said sun-protective clothing is another option. The items can be worn in the water and you won’t have to apply sunscreen to areas covered by the clothing.

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How to treat a sunburn

If you or your child do get a sunburn there are some steps you can take to ease the pain, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

  • Take frequent cool baths or showers
  • Use moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy
  • Take ibuprofen or aspirin to help reduce swelling, redness and discomfort
  • Drink more water
  • Allow blisters to heal without popping them
  • Cover the burnt skin when outdoors

About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.