Infants hit emergency rooms with sunburn as Cancer Council pleads for caution

by Freya Lucas

January 24

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals should be aware of new data showing 121 people, almost half of whom were infants, were presented to emergency rooms in January 2018 for treatment of bad sunburn which had persisted for a day or more

 

The National Sun Protection Survey, conducted by Victoria’s Cancer Council, showed that  39 per cent of Victorians had one or more bad sunburn that lasted a day or more last summer, with January being the peak month for sunburn issues.


SunSmart have issued the figures ahead of the Australia Day long weekend, alongside pleas for everyone to enjoy the sun safely.


In addition to the survey reports, new data from Victorian public emergency department presentations showed 278 people presented with sunburn to state hospital emergency departments in the 2017-18 financial year, with a January monthly average of four people each day.



SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said the numbers were far too high, saying it was “particularly concerning” to see almost half of emergency presentations for sunburn were from infants, children and teenagers, given harmful UV exposure in childhood greatly increases skin cancer risk later in life.



“A sunburn is evidence that your skin has been seriously damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation and significantly increases your melanoma risk,” Ms Walker said.


“That’s why it’s so shocking to see so many Victorian children have been burnt in the last summer alone, not just once but multiple times.”

 

“In some cases, sunburns have been severe enough that people have gone to emergency. This is not a pattern we want repeated.”



Ms Walker warned people to ‘not be fooled’ by a skin type which burns and then tans, saying



“Like a sunburn, a suntan is a sign of skin cells in trauma and will contribute to your lifetime risk of skin cancer. No matter your skin type, age or gender, skin cancer prevention is key.”



Alfred Hospital Victorian Melanoma Service Director Associate Professor Victoria Mar said she was also alarmed by the sunburn numbers.


“Most skin cancers diagnosed in Australia are the result of UV damage, which means it’s vital to your future health to stop this damage adding up,” Associate Professor Mar said.



Associate Professor Mar said sunburn was not only damaging to skin cells but could be extremely painful, recommending people, especially infants, toddlers, and children, were bought for immediate medical attention for any of the following symptoms of severe sunburn:

 

  • Extensive blistering and pain

 

  • Sunburn over a large area of skin

 

  • Headache

 

  • Nausea

 

  • Vomiting

 

  • Fever

 

  • Dizziness.

 

To treat mild sunburn, Associate Professor Mar recommended taking the following action:

 

  • Avoid sun exposure to allow the skin to heal

 

  • Stay hydrated

 

  • Apply cool compresses

 

  • Seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

Ms Walker stressed the importance of sunburn prevention, saying“We urge all Victorians to be SunSmart this weekend and every day this summer by using sun protection whenever they are outside. That’s a combination of covering clothing, sunscreen, a hat, shade and sunglasses.”



“Don’t underestimate the sun’s UV – at this time of year, unprotected skin can be burnt in as little as 11 minutes.”



For more information visit the SunSmart website

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