How to treat a Sunburnt Child
As a parent, a sunburned child spurs allot of guilt. After all we know that sunburn is a red and oh so painful skin reaction after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. The skin absorbs UV light from sunlight as well as artificial sources of light such as tanning beds. UV rays can also cause invisible damage to the skin. Excessive or multiple sunburns cause wrinkling and premature ageing of the skin. Sun exposure is also the leading cause of skin cancer.
Children often spend a good part of their day playing outdoors in the sun, especially during the summer.
Children are more likely to develop skin cancer in later years if they have:
- Fair skin, moles, or freckles
- Multiple blistering sunburns
- A family history of skin cancer
Exposure to the sun during daily activities and play causes the most sun damage. Overexposure to sunlight before age 18 is most damaging to the skin.
UV rays are strongest during the summer months when the sun is directly overhead—normally between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
What are the symptoms of sunburn?
These are the most common symptoms of sunburn:
- Swelling of the skin
- Dry, itching, and peeling skin 3 to 8 days after the burn
More severe cases may cause:
- Weakness, confusion, or faintness
The symptoms of sunburn may look like other skin conditions. Always see your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis if you are unsure.
First aid for sunburn
If your child gets a sunburn, these tips can help make your child more comfortable:
- Have your child take a cool bath or use cool compresses on the sunburned area.
- Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort and fever. Be sure to follow the directions on the container. Never use aspirin in children.
- Apply a topical moisturizer, aloe gel, hydrocortisone cream, or a topical pain reliever to sunburned skin.
- If blisters are present, don’t break them open, as infection can occur.
- Keep your child out of the sun until the burn is healed.
- Give your child extra fluid for several days to prevent dehydration.
When should I call the Dr?
Specific treatment for sunburn will depend on the severity of the sunburn. In general, call your child’s healthcare provider if:
- The sunburn is so severe that it interupts sleep or forms blisters which could become infected.
- Your child has symptoms of heat stress such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, or feeling faint.
At the end of the day, the message is clear. If your child is going to be in the sun then they should have sunscreen and a hat.