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Preventing and Treating Sunburn

NightLight · August 4, 2016

Summer Sunburn and How to Prevent It

Now that summer is underway, we hope your children (and you!) are enjoying some time outdoors. We also hope that you remember the sunscreen. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your time outside:

  • Use sunscreen. This sounds obvious, but this step can get overlooked. Even if you think your child will only be outside for a few minutes, apply sunscreen. Apply 15 to 30 minutes prior to going outside to let the sunscreen soak in, and then 30 minutes after exposure begins. SPF 30 is good. Dermatologists recommend SPF 50+
  • Don’t skip the sunscreen on cloudy days. Even on gray, cloudy days, there is still UV radiation, so your children will need sunscreen if they will be outside.
  • Reapply sunscreen. If your children are outside for extended periods of time, apply sunscreen again. You want to apply it at least every 2 hours. If your child is swimming or sweating, apply it more often.
  • Protect babies. Babies under 6 months need to be protected from the sun by staying shaded (keep them out of the sun!), but you can apply little areas — like the face — with SPF 15 or higher if you have to.
  • Dress appropriately. Have your child wear clothing that is loose fitting and covers as much skin as possible. Remember sunglasses to protect their eyes. Hats with brims, even baseball caps, provide protection.
  • It is very important that your children stay hydrated. Make sure they have plenty of water available and that they are drinking it.
  • Check the time. The sun is at its highest and hottest point between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. When possible, have your children play outside before and after this time. The middle of the day is a great opportunity to bring them inside to cool off, hydrate, eat lunch, and rest before going back outside for more fun.

If sunburn happens despite your best efforts, try cool compresses or cool showers or baths. Apply a moisturizer, preferably with aloe. Stay away from petroleum-based lotions as they can cause further irritation. To reduce swelling and relieve discomfort, try children’s acetaminophen. Remember to have your child drink plenty of water.

When should you come to urgent care for your child’s sunburn?

  • If your child’s sunburn does not seem to be healing within a few days
  • If your child is experiencing unusual pain, swelling, warmth, or redness
  • If there are red streaks around the sunburn
  • If there are open blisters or pus
  • If your child experiences a fever in conjunction with their sunburn

Any of these symptoms may be signs of infection, so visit urgent care or your child’s pediatrician for evaluation and treatment.