Bad sunburn

How To Treat Sunburn

It’s important to remember sunscreen when going outdoors, but accidents happen. You’re running outdoors with 3 kids in tow and you forget to throw the sunscreen into your beach bag. Or, you leave the house for what’s supposed to be a quick, indoors errand when your toddler spots the playground. “5 minutes” turns into an hour and, before you know it, you’re both home with a sunburn. A sunburn can occur after just a single unprotected hour of time in the sun. How exactly does it occur, though, and how do you treat it? 


What is sunburn?


Simply put, a sunburn occurs when you’re out in the sun too long without protection. A sunburn is caused by damaging UV rays from the sun. The burn often takes an hour to show up, but it could be up to 24 hours before the full effects are apparent. Towards the end of the healing process your skin may also peel. For moderate sunburns, your child may experience more pain and swelling, and you may find your child’s skin is hot to the touch. Severe sunburns, while rare, may require a visit to your child’s pediatrician or an urgent care. These will be very painful and skin will blister. 


Having fair skin puts your child at a greater risk for a sunburn. Certain medications also raise your child’s risk for sunburn, as do living in high altitudes. 


Repeated sunburns over the course of the years puts you at risk for skin cancer later in life. A sunburn can also cause premature skin aging. Clothes provide some protection, but the best protection, especially when you’re out in the sun for long hours, is sunscreen. Aim for an SPF of 30 for a couple of hours in the sun, higher for longer periods of time. 


How to treat sunburn


If your child is experiencing discomfort from the sunburn, help him or her cool down with a quick, cool shower or bath (do not cool sunburn with ice).  After the shower, moisturize the sunburnt areas to prevent drying of the skin. For best results, moisturize while your child’s skin is damp to lock in moisture. It’s best to use an unscented lotion to avoid further irritation, especially on bad sunburns. If a cool shower isn’t doing the trick in terms of easing the pain, you can give your child some ibuprofen. This will help both with pain relief and will help reduce inflammation at the sunburn site. 


Keep your child hydrated, because burns destroy the integrity of the upper layer of the skin that keeps water in the body, so your child has a higher risk of dehydration. For a natural solution, use an aloe vera-based balm or lotion. Aloe vera is a plant that has natural cooling properties which makes it one of the best remedies for sunburn, and using a product containing it can be soothing.


See your child’s pediatrician or have your child seen at a pediatric urgent care if they have blistering covering a large portion of their body, if they develop a fever after getting sunburnt, or if they become disoriented. 

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