Soaking up the Sun, Safely: Avoiding and Treating Your Kid’s Sunburn

What do summertime, sunshine, and sunscreen all have in common? Well, the sun of course! But let’s not forget pesky sunburns. As a parent, it’s an incredible and healthy experience to spend time outdoors with your child, soaking up the warm rays, breathing in the fresh air, and getting that good ole vitamin D. And of course, you never go outside looking to get burned, in fact, we’re sure you try to avoid a sunburn at all costs, especially for your kids! But we understand that accidents happen. So here are our best tips for avoiding and treating your kid’s sunburn. 

What the Ray!

You’ve likely heard of UVA and UVB rays, but what does that mean? UVA means long-wave ultraviolet A and UVB means short-wave ultraviolet B. While UVA rays are the ones that go deep into the thickest layer of skin, the dermis, causing aging, UVB rays typically burn the top layers of your skin. What is important to know is that both UVA and UVB are damaging the DNA in the skin, which can ultimately lead to skin cancer. Bottom line? It’s best to protect you and your child from both!

We all too often forget that a sunburn can occur with a little as 15 minutes of sun exposure, and that it can even occur on a cloudy day, although you likely won’t notice you have been burned until hours later. So if your child will be out in the sun for 15 minutes or longer, be sure to bring a hat, find some shade, and lather up with sunscreen. 

Spotting a Kid’s Sunburn

While mild sunburn symptoms include pain, itching, redness, and warm skin, severe symptoms are much more problematic. These symptoms include very red skin, blistering, peeling, swelling, nausea, headache, dizziness, and even fever or chills. 

Although sunburns are most common for fair-skinned children, be aware that sunburns and skin damage can occur with all skin tones. So, no matter your child’s complexion, be sure to use sun protection. Keep in mind that it is also easier to spot a sunburn on fairer skin. So watch for more than just redness. Feel your child’s skin for warmth and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of overheating. Especially if you have a family history of skin cancer, or if your child has fair skin, freckles, or moles, you should be hypervigilant about protecting them from sun damage. For all kids, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real risks that you need to be aware of and take preventative action, to make sure your children aren’t overexposed.

Feeling the Burn

As soon as you spot signs of a sunburn, be sure to have your child immediately vacate the sun and treat the affected areas as soon as possible. Just as you might with a regular burn, try to lower the skin’s temperature with a cool shower (not hot or cold) or a cool compress. If you are on the go, try to dampen a towel with water to ease the heat on the skin right away. As soon as you can, apply a product used to provide sunburn relief for kids such as aloe vera gel or other gentle moisturizers to calm, soothe, and heal the skin. Be sure to monitor your child for any severe symptoms. Ensure that they drink extra fluids for several days until the burn goes away in order to prevent dehydration. Keep the affected areas completely covered while outdoors with a sunburn. If your child is in pain, you can give them either aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen to ease the ouch. 

Severe Symptoms

If your kid’s sunburn is severe, do not hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for thorough, personalized advice and care. Your child’s doctor can often prescribe medication to help ease the symptoms and provide sunburn relief for kids.

In the meantime, do not use products like lidocaine or benzocaine as they can irritate burned skin. Also avoid moisturizing petroleum-based products as they actually keep the heat in instead of helping. If your child develops blisters, please, do not pop them! They are there to help the skin heal and popping can lead to infection. 

When to Worry

Burns can be both extremely painful and highly damaging. This means, the best care and treatment is a top priority to help make your little one feel better as soon as possible. If your kid’s sunburn is causing them extreme pain, blistering with yellow discharge, unusual lethargy, cramping, vomiting, swelling of the face, fever or chills, dizziness, faintness, or intense dehydration or headache, take them to an urgent or emergency medical care center as soon as possible. Even if their skin doesn’t look too bad, they could still be at risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. 

Tips to Avoid a Kids Sunburn

We love the sun for its amazing benefits for your child’s health, so here is how to soak up the sun safely… We like to use the 3 S’s — Shirt, Shade, and Sunscreen! That means keeping your child under the cover of either clothes or an umbrella while also applying a UVA and UVB-protective sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. For babies, their skin is especially sensitive! Try to keep them covered with shade as much as possible and keep sun exposure to a minimum. Apply baby sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to any skin left open to the sunshine. When you plan to get some rays, note that 10am to 4pm is the time when the sun is the harshest. Try to go out in the morning or in late afternoon, skipping the worst times that hover around 12pm.

At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we want to see your kids happy and healthy, now and for the long term. So, while sunshine can be spectacular, don’t forget that it is still a force of nature — just like your little one!