Background: Previous studies have demonstrated inappropriate advice from health profes- sionals advocating therapeutic sun exposure during infancy and the post-partum period. This study examines the proportion of Australian midwives and related hospital nursing staff who recommend therapeutic sun exposure during this period. Methods: Questionnaires were completed by 363 Australian nurses (57.2% response) responsible for nursing post-partum women in 11 maternity hospitals in Queensland (QLD) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Results: Many nurses believed sun exposure was beneficial in treating: cracked nipples (QLD 41.3%, ACT 65.8%; p < 0.001), neonatal jaundice (QLD 49.6%, ACT 75.3%; p < 0.001), nappy rash (QLD 23.2%, ACT 30.3%; p = 0.207) and acne (QLD 12.3%, ACT 16.9%; p = 0.291) and made recommendations consistent with their beliefs. Relatively few nurses stipulated sunning through glass or specified exposure time limits. Nursing staff from public hospitals in QLD, but not the ACT, were more likely than nurses from private hospitals to hold one or more such beliefs (p = 0.008). Approximately 40% of respondents thought people generally looked healthier with a suntan; 79% of this group also held one or more risky beliefs about therapeutic sun exposure (p = 0.043). Conclusion: A high proportion of these nurses held risky beliefs about the beneficial uses of sunlight for post-partum women and their infants and made recommendations consistent with their beliefs. Professional education is needed to change the beliefs and practices of nursing staff about intentional sun exposure of women and their babies to reduce their long- term skin cancer risk, particularly as Australia has such a high prevalence of skin cancer.
Cite this paper
Harrison, S. , Nikles, J. and Nowak, M. (2013) Don’t burn the baby: Advice from Australian nurses recommending therapeutic sun exposure during infancy. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine
, 212-218. doi: 10.4236/ojpm.2013.32029
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