How to Treat Severe Sunburn or Overexposure to Sun In Children

Sunburn is a very common side effect of overexposure to the sun. Because it is so common, parents often never think twice to treat it or even prevent it. This should not be the case because even as early as childhood, children should already be prevented from too much sun exposure to decrease the dangers of skin cancer later in life.

Sunburn in Children

  • Refers to burnt skin from overexposure from the sun.

  • Sunburn is usually first-degree in nature that can turn the skin pink or red.

  • Too much sun exposure can lead to blistering of the skin which is already a second-degree burn.

  • No scarring results from sunburn and never causes a third-degree type of burn.

  • Kids benefit from sun exposure because it is a healthy source of vitamin D which is needed for bones to grow.

  • It is another matter altogether to keep the child exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time that it eventually causes a burn.

  • Remember, it does not take a long period of time to get a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun.

  • The dangers of repeated overexposure to the sun’s rays can include:

    • Skin damage

    • Eye damage

    • Suppression of the immune system

    • Skin cancer

Sunburn in Children Symptoms

Symptoms of sunburn are the same for adults and children and can include:

  • First degree burn symptoms:

    • Pink or reddish skin

  • Second degree burn symptoms:

    • Reddish or blistered skin

  • Mild swelling of the skin

  • Pain which usually begins at 4 hours and peaks at 24 hours then subsides after a period of 48 hours.

How to Treat Severe Sunburn in Children

Treatment depends on the age of the child.

  • For babies under a year old:

    • Treat the sunburn as a medical emergency.

  • For babies that are one year old or older:

    • Treat the condition as a medical emergency if the children experiences severe pain, lethargy, blistering, and fever exceeding 101 F.

  • Other treatments include:

    • Give the child plenty of water or juice because sunburn can cause dehydration.

    • Give antipyretics for children with fever.

    • Bathe the child in clear, tepid water to help cool the skin.

    • Apply a light moisturizing lotion over the skin to help soothe the discomfort but do not rub it in.

    • If the skin is painful to touch, never apply lotion.

    • Dab plain calamine lotion on the skin to help soothe the discomfort.

    • Do not apply alcohol over sunburnt skin as it hastens skin drying.

    • Never apply medicated creams unless specified by a doctor.

    • Avoid sun exposure until the child’s sunburn heals.

    • Practice sun safety such as:

      • Dress the child for the outdoors.

      • Keep the child in the shade whenever possible.

      • Apply sunscreen on exposed skin areas 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.

      • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or whenever the child sweats or has been in the water.

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