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Sunburns

The sun provides a source of vitamin D, which is essential to help our bodies absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. However, unprotected sun exposure can damage the skin and eyes, and skin cancer. Overexposing your children to the sun can be more dangerous for kids who have very fair skin and hair, have many freckles or moles, or come from a family history of skin cancer. Most kids get much of their lifetime sun exposure before they become adults, so it’s important to teach them how to soak up the sun while taking the proper precautions.

Mild Symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Red, warm skin

Severe Symptoms:

Headache Redness and blistering of the skin Chills
Dizziness Nausea Pain
Swelling Fever Tingling

Treatment

  • Sunburn symptoms usually last up to 48 hours. Treat the pain early with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and repeat for two days. An over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (1%) may decrease swelling and pain and should be used 2-3 times daily.
  • Cool baths or compresses can provide relief, as can adding baking soda to the bath water. Showers may be painful secondary to the force of the spray.
  • Drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration, as burns can lead to fluid loss.
  • Itching can be alleviated with anti-histamine, like Benadryl® or Zyrtec®, and/or 1% hydrocortisone cream. Avoid ointments (like Vaseline), as they keep heat and sweat from escaping.
  • If the sunburn causes blisters, fever, chills, or significant lethargy, schedule an appointment with one of our doctors. Serious sunburns should be treated like other burn injuries and may require the use of antibiotics.

Prevention

  • Stay in the shade as much as possible
  • Avoid sun exposure during the peak intensity hours of 10AM to 4PM.
  • Use a hat or visor and be aware of sun reflection off sand, water, or cement.
  • Apply sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 15, at least 30 minutes prior to going outside, as it is most effective if completely absorbed into the skin.
  • Buy a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, often labeled as “broad spectrum”. Look for the UVA star rating—a 4 star rating provides the highest protection.
  • Apply sunscreen (even waterproof or sweat proof) a minimum of every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.
  • Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Sunscreen is OK to use in children under 6 months of age if sun avoidance is impossible or there is a likelihood of sun exposure. We recommend applying sunscreen to a test spot a few days prior to more extensive exposure to ensure there is no reaction.
  • Eye protection is also important. Be sure to buy sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection for your child.

Contact your doctor if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • A sunburn that has resulted in the formation of blisters
  • The sunburn covers a large area of the face/body
  • Facial swelling
  • Fever/chills
  • Headache
  • Feeling of faintness
  • Signs of dehydration

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