We know that sun protection is important to help prevent skin cancer. But are you aware that it is especially crucial for kids diagnosed with lupus?
What is Lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that can cause pain, inflammation, and damage to many organs of the body, and can affect both adults and children. An autoimmune disorder means that the immune system is hyperactive and doesn’t function properly. Females of all ages are overwhelmingly diagnosed with this disease more than males.
Pediatric Lupus, also known as pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus (pSLE), is diagnosed in patients under the age of 18. Unfortunately, about 15% of people living with lupus are children. Symptoms may also be more severe in children.
Lupus symptoms can vary from one child to the next and may fluctuate from one day to another. Almost any part of the body can be involved, and sometimes multiple areas at once. The most common areas targeting children with lupus are joints, skin, and internal organs including the kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, and liver.
The exact reason that a child has lupus is unknown. Factors like genetics, cigarette smoke, puberty, or infection may play a role, but the sun may also trigger lupus symptoms and cause severe disease flares.
How Does the Sun Affect Kids with Lupus
Children affected by lupus are more likely to be photosensitive and react more intensely to UV exposure than healthier kids. This reaction can cause an immune response known as a flare. It is also important to recognize that photosensitivity can also put your child at a higher risk for skin cancer.
There are many symptoms of a lupus flare, but common symptoms may include:
- A red rash across the nose and cheeks
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Multiple organ damage
Your child’s physician will design a treatment plan to control symptoms, halt or slow an immune system attack, and prevent damage to internal organs. The goal of treatment is to keep lupus in remission so your child can live as normal a life as possible.
The treatment plan will include medications and lifestyle changes to help manage your child’s condition. You will also be educated about helping to prevent lupus flares by shielding your child from the sun. This requires a three pillar approach – shade, sun safe clothing, and broad spectrum sunscreen.
Ways to Prevent UV Exposure
The best way to protect your child from UV exposure is to avoid the sun. But since this isn’t always possible, you need a layered approach for a sun defense plan.
While UPF 50+ clothing, sunscreen and shade can each provide some sun protection, they are not enough separately. You must use all three forms together to protect your child from a severe lupus flare, as well as future skin cancer.
- Sun Protective Clothing and Hats – Sunny AND cloudy days need long sleeve shirts and long pants with a UPF 50+ rating to protect your child’s skin from burns or worse. Check out UV Skinz line of fashionable sun safe clothing and accessories. Our sun protective apparel with 50+ UPF blocks out 98% of UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget that a wide brim UPF 50+ sun hat is also essential to shield their face and neck.
- Broad Spectrum Sunscreen - It is recommended that those with lupus use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a 70+ SPF rating. When slathering on sunscreen, be generous and diligent about applying to hands, fingers, feet, toes, and ears. In addition, apply an SPF lip balm and provide sunglasses with a 100% UPF rating to protect the delicate thin skin around the eyes.
- Shade – Always seek out areas of shade, be it a tree or a roofed shelter. If shade won’t be available, bring your own personal and portable shade. Avoid or minimize time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. when the sun is most intense. Be especially mindful of the sun’s reflection from snow and sand which can cause dangerous exposure. When possible, schedule outdoor activities in early morning or late in the day to accommodate your child’s health.
Letting Kids be Kids
While lupus is a serious health condition for your child, it’s still important that you allow and encourage them to enjoy outdoor adventures. With the right precautions, your child can swim, ski, hike, and simply enjoy being a kid. If your child is a teen, teach them to make smart sun decisions for themselves. With proper sun safety, children with lupus can still participate in sports and activities and enjoy a full life.