Children who get severely sunburnt should be referred to social services, according to campaigners.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
3:26PM BST 21 Jul 2013
They insist parents are guilty of “neglect” if they allow kids to get so badly burned they need to be taken to hospital.
Last week a four-week-old was referred to hospital with sunburn.
The skin cancer and burns charities say that in cases where health staff have concerns they should report children’s injuries to social workers.
Meanwhile Superdrug, the chemist chain, recommended that the VAT be taken off sunscreen so it is more affordable for parents to make the right decision.
Parents groups agreed that awareness should be raised so that parents protect children in hot weather.
But they said that parents must also be made aware of the risk of rickets and other conditions caused by vitamin D deficiency caused by lack of sunlight.
Earlier this year a six-year-old was diagnosed with rickets because of lack of sunlight and doctors have warned middle class children are at risk if they are not outdoors enough.
Mumsnet, the online forum, has discussed both issues with some commentators saying there is “no excuse” for failing to put on sunscreen.
Dozens of hospitals across the country have reported a rise in the number of severe sunburn cases among children during the recent heatwave.
Last week a four-week-old baby was among 10 children admitted to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex with severe sunburn.
Leigh Smith, chair of Melanoma Action and Support Scotland, warned that prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun could have fatal consequences.
“I’m not surprised to hear that children are being taken to A&E wards,” she said.
“It’s very serious. These parents have tripled their children’s chances of getting skin cancer.
“Malignant melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults aged 15-34 in the UK and it happens from getting sunburnt.
“We also need to make sure schools are protecting children from sunburn while they are there. As far as I’m concerned it is a child protection issue.
“It’s not sexual abuse and you’re not hurting them there and then but you’re making their vaccination programmes and the money spent on their education pointless if they get melanoma and die from it.”
Pat Wade, founder of charity Burned Children’s Club, failing to put on sunscreen is neglect.
“The agony these children can suffer is horrendous.
“With all the advice out there children should not be getting burned. It’s neglect.
“In effect you’re abusing that child because you’re not looking after it properly.
“You can buy sun cream for as little as £1 a bottle. Even if you don’t have a lot of money you should be able to protect your child.
“If a child comes into an A&E ward after abuse you phone social services.”
Steve Gray, Superdrug health director, said the current 20 per cent tax on sunscreen should be axed.
“Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the UK, but the VAT on nicotine patches is 5 per cent. Are the Government saying that lung cancer is more important than skin cancer?” he asked.
The Government is due to discuss updating child neglect laws to include emotional and psychological abuse.
Mark Williams MP is bringing forward a Private Members Bill on the issue.
But the Department of Health said sunburn would be a matter of advice, rather than statutory law.
Online forums for mums have been discussing the need to raise awareness of using sunscreen.
Mumsnet also discussed the problem that schools will not apply sunscreen because of the risk of allergic reaction, so parents have to send in written permission to ensure children are safe.
At the same time mothers have been discussing the problem of rickets. Chris Head, 6, was diagnosed with rickets earlier this year due to a lack of sunlight after his mother admitted using a lot of high factor sunscreen.
Professor Nick Clarke, a paediatric surgeon at Southampton University, has warned that it was a “growing problem” as children are outdoors less than ever before and sunshine is practically their only source of vitamin D.
The Mumsnet feeds discussed the need for parents to be given more information on both issues in order to protect children from dangerous amounts of sun, while allowing enough time outdoors to maintain vitamin D levels.