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How to treat sunburn in children

How to treat sunburn in children

Even when parents do their best to protect their children from too much sun, many children will end up with sunburn at some point. Therefore, it is important to know how to identify sunburn, what to do about it , when to call a doctor and how to prevent future sunburn in children.

Like other burns, sunburn can lead to first-degree burns, which are the most common, but more severe sunburns can lead to second-degree burns and, less commonly, third-degree burns.

Parents should know that both UVB and UVA rays can damage their children’s skin. While UVB rays in general burn skin, UVA rays may be more important in aging a the skin. UVA radiation is more constant and penetrates deeper into the skin (dermis). Both UVA and UVB rays affect the skin’s DNA; damage that can lead to skin cancer. .

Even if your child has only a minor burn or no visible burns, it may damage the skin.

Symptoms of sunburn in children

While your child can get sunburn in just 15-30 minutes be in the sun Without adequate protection, the symptoms of sunburn usually develop only after one to 24 hours later. Symptoms may include pain, red skin that may have blisters and sometimes fever ..

Although sunburn is more common in children with lighter skin, black children and other children of color can also burn. Regardless of skin color, sunburned skin may be sensitive to touch, may feel hot, painful, irritated or itchy.

As redness caused by sunburn can be more difficult to detect in children with darker skin, it is important for parents to also watch for signs of heat from sun exposure, Headache , dizziness, nausea, swollen skin, fever or muscle cramps.

Most children recover from sunburn within two to seven days, depending on how bad it was to begin with, and the first few days being the worst. After four to seven days, your child’s sunburned skin will usually peel.

Complications of sunburn

Depending on the severity of your child’s sunburn, they may be at risk for complications. Each can have a significant impact on your health if left unaddressed, so it is important to pay close attention if any of the following complications occur with your child’s sunburn.


More severe sunburns that cause second degree burns can have blisters that develop on the skin. These small bags filled with fluid usually break out within a few days of formation and then heal completely within two weeks.


Do not intentionally remove blisters, as this may lead to infection. Keep areas with blisters as clean and dry as possible by covering them with a free gauze.

Sun poisoning

Sun poisoning is a non-medical term for severe sunburn. This type of sunburn can include red, painful skin with swelling and blisters. A child with sun poisoning may have other symptoms, such as fever, chills, or nausea. .

Sun poisoning is also sometimes used to describe the rash that some people get because they are sensitive to the sun. The medical term for this type of sun exposure rash is a mild polymorphic rash, which can present as tiny red spots on the skin, eczema-like spots or target-shaped lesions a day or two after sun exposure. .

Uncommonly, a condition known as solar urticaria can occur in sunburned children with both redness and hives, but it usually resolves within hours of sun exposure. .

Thermal stress

Related diseases Hot What the exhaustion from the heat (the precursor to the worst heat stroke) can happen to children during sun exposure, whether their skin looks burnt or not. When an increase in core body temperature due to sun exposure is combined with a lack of hydration, heat exhaustion can occur.

A child with a red face during sun exposure may not yet have sunburn, but may have some form of heat stress that can cause health complications if left untreated. If your child has weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or headache, with pale, warm and glowing skin, it is important to remove it from the heat and seek medical attention.

When to call the doctor

Ask your doctor if your child has severe sunburn or blisters or fever and / or if the sunburn covers a large area of ​​his or her body. Redness, red discharge from the blisters and swelling of the skin may be signs of infection that may require medical attention.

Also seek medical attention if your child becomes particularly lethargic, vomits, or has severe dizziness.

Treating a child’s sunburn

There are many things you can do relieves discomfort from your child’s sunburn, but there is nothing you can do to reverse the damage to the DNA and skin structures that occur with sunburn. The goals of most sunburn treatments are to make your baby comfortable and relieve the pain, especially in the first few days, when sunburn is usually the most painful.

When you first notice a sunburn on a child, remove it immediately from the sun, if you have not already done so. Then offer painkillers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) and apply a cold, damp compress to the affected area. Make sure your baby gets more fluids so they don’t become dehydrated.

Cold baths and showers can help relieve the heat and pain associated with sunburn, as well as applying soothing lotions containing aloe vera. An oral antihistamine and topical moisturizer can be used once the sunburned areas begin to peel and eat.

For severe sunburn, prescription painkillers and burn creams, such as Silvadene, may be needed to significantly reduce pain. Also, corticosteroids are rarely used and only in severe sunburn.

Do not do to relieve sunburn

While your child is recovering from a sunburn, avoid things that can aggravate their sunburned skin, such as hot baths or benzocaine-containing showers and lotions.

Be very careful not to expose them to the sun. In addition to being painful, sunburned areas are probably even more susceptible to sun damage.

Sunburn treatments do not cure burns. There are no treatments to address the damage that has been done. The purpose of the «treatment» is to relieve the discomfort while the body repairs itself.

Sunburn prevention and sun safety

People get over 50% of their lives exposed to UV rays in childhood, so it is important to protect them from the sun and sunburn in childhood and hopefully help reduce the risk of subsequent skin cancer.

People with fair skin and freckles may also be at increased risk of developing sunburn even with limited sun exposure, so protecting children in these groups is essential. Certain medications, including most of those used to treat acne, can also increase your child’s risk of severe sunburn. .

Every sunburn your child receives can increase the risk of skin cancer in the future. Following these sun safety tips can help prevent sunburn:

  • Commonly use a broad-spectrum sunscreen or sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more, which protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes before going outside on all exposed areas of the body.
  • Avoid sun exposure during peak hours from 10 am to 4 pm when the ultraviolet rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing, including sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts, pants and tight-fitting trousers.

Babies are also susceptible to sunburn. Although it is best to keep babies younger than 6 months from direct sunlight and to wear protective clothing and hats to reduce exposure, you can also apply a small amount of sunscreen to exposed skin when needed.

A word from Verywell

If your child develops sunburn, do not punish yourself as a parent. Sunburn is common and there are ways to relieve the pain it causes, but prevention is the best approach. Take time to prepare in advance for your child’s next sunny day with one good sun protection to protect her tender skin froms UVA and UVB rays.