Summertime in Summit County means hikes to Lily Pad Lake, fishing the Blue River and light winds dappling green aspen leaves on bluebird days. And while protecting our skin from the sun is a year-round goal, we expose more of it during the warmer months. When we’re outside having fun it’s easy to lose track of time, which can lead to sunburn.
We all need some sun exposure. It’s our primary source of Vitamin D, which helps us to absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. But it doesn’t take much time in the sun for most people to get the vitamin D they need, and repeated unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression and skin cancer.
Most kids rack up a lot of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18, so it’s important that parents teach their children how to enjoy fun in the sun safely. With the right precautions, you can greatly reduce your child’s chance of developing skin cancer.
Colorado requires special care for UV protection because of its high elevation and 300-plus days of sunshine. At more than 9,000 feet above sea level, Summit County is a toaster! As late as 2006, data from the Colorado Cancer Coalition noted that 40 percent of adults in Colorado experienced at least one sunburn over the course of the year; the rate for kids was 51 percent. We have to do better for ourselves and for our children.
When kids get sunburned, they usually experience pain and a sensation of heat — symptoms that tend to become more severe several hours after sun exposure. Some also develop chills. Cool baths, aloe vera gel, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and petroleum-free moisturizers can all prove to be helpful. For the more seriously sunburned areas, apply a thin layer of 1 percent hydrocortisone cream to help with pain. Severe blistering may warrant a doctor visit.
Teaching our kids to love the outdoors is part of the reason we enjoy our lives here. There’s no reason to limit our activities as long as we prepare in advance. Show your kids how to be sun safe and let them see you doing the same. Preventive behaviors should become a habit to reduce your risk of sun damage and to teach your kids good sun sense.
Dr. Adam Loomis provides pediatric services at High Country Healthcare’s Frisco office. He will discuss “Sunscreen: Facts & Fiction” on Saturday, July 6th from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. as part of High Country Healthcare’s “Walk with a Doc” weekly education series. Walkers of all ages and abilities (plus well-behaved, leashed dogs) should meet at the Summit Medical Building (360 Peak One Drive) next to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center for a walk-and-talk on a nearby recreation path. For more information, visit www.highcountryhealth.com.