QVH reports rise in sunburnt babies and children during heatwave

Thursday 18th July 2013

The current hot weather has led to a worrying number of admissions to QVH’s specialist children’s burns unit. The East Grinstead hospital has seen ten babies and children with severe sunburn in the last four weeks, six of whom needed specialist treatment.

The youngest patient was just four weeks old, the oldest was 14. The patients were referred to the unit from other hospitals because of the extent of their burns, two also needed treatment at other hospitals for symptoms of heatstroke. The extent of the burns ranged from 0.5% to 4% of body surface area. All of the children came from the South East, from Chichester in West Sussex to Swanley in Kent.

With temperatures set to remain high in the South East for a few more days yet, Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Nora Nugent from QVH said: “No parent or carer intends for their child to get sunburnt and accidents do happen. But spending just a couple of minutes applying sunscreen to a child before they go out in the sun is the difference between a summer of fun and a summer spoilt by sunburn.

“The sun at this time of year is very strong and children can get burnt very quickly. The children we’ve treated over the last few weeks have been referred to our unit because their burns have been so severe they have required specialist treatment. Sunburn isn’t just a short term problem. We know that sun damage in childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. QVH is also a specialist skin cancer centre and we are all too aware of the damage the sun can cause.

“Follow the advice on the NHS Choices website to keep your child safe in the sun.”

Advice to parents is:

  • Use a sunscreen that is at least factor 30 and has a four- or five-star UVB rating.
  • Sunscreen should be applied to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands before going out in the sun.
  • Children should have sunscreen reapplied regularly, especially if they have been in water.
  • Children should spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, under umbrellas, trees, canopies or indoors.
  • Wearing a wide brimmed hat will shade a child’s head, face and neck.
  • Babies under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day.
  • Take care on cloudy days too, as sun exposure will still occur.

More information can be found on the NHS Choices website at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/safety-in-the-sun.aspx#close