Summer means time spent outside soaking up the sun, trips to the swimming pool, and spending lazy afternoons by the lake. All this fun in the sun can result in an uncomfortable sunburn. Hopefully, you have taken preventative measures for before you and your kids spend time out in the hot summer sun and avoided getting a bad sunburn. But, we know that doesn’t always happen. Below are a few simple tips to treat the pain associated with sunburns, as well as when you should seek medical attention.
The Mayo Clinic has offered the following tips for sunburn prevention. Keep these in mind, not only when you are in the summer heat, but also on cool, cloudy days, when you are around water, snow, and sand and at high altitudes.
- Avoid extended sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The sun’s rays are strongest during these hours. Try to schedule your activities at other times of the day. Otherwise, limit the length of time you’re in the sun and seek shade when possible.
- Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds. Using tanning beds to obtain a base tan doesn’t decrease your risk of sunburn.
- Cover up. When your kids are outside, have them wear a hat and clothing that covers them up — especially their arms and legs. Dark colors will offer more protection. Depending on what your plans are, you might want to get some outdoor gear that is specially designed to provide sun protection. Check the label for its ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). The higher the number, the better.
- Make sure your kids are using sunscreen frequently and generously. Apply water-resistant sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 30 or greater and broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. About 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, apply sunscreen generously on the skin that won’t be protected by clothing. Put on more sunscreen every 40 to 80 minutes. Check the labels for directions on storing and expiration dates. You should throw sunscreen away if it’s expired or more than three years old.
- Wearing sunglasses when outdoors. Choose sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Check the UV rating on the label when buying new glasses. Darker lenses are not necessarily better at blocking UV rays. It also helps to have your kids wear sunglasses that fit close to their face and have wraparound frames that can block sunlight from all angles.
- Be aware of what medications can increase sensitivity to the sun. Common drugs that make you more sensitive to sunlight include antihistamines, ibuprofen, certain antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs.
What, exactly is a sunburn? A sunburn — red, painful skin that feels hot to the touch — usually appears within a few hours after too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from sunshine or artificial sources, such as sunlamps. Sunburn symptoms include:
- Reddened skin
- Painful to the touch
- Peeling skin
Treating A Sunburn
The first step to treating a sunburn is to get out of the sun as soon as possible. This will help you to limit the damage. This is something that many young kids don’t do because they are too busy playing to realize they are getting burned. If you are unable to get your child out of the sun by going inside, your next best options are finding shade and adding additional layers of clothing for skin protection.
Once the burned skin has been taken out of the sunlight, you can begin to treat the burned area. The following treatment options will help relieve the burn and help it to heal.
- Get the skin cooled off by taking a cool shower, bath or using a cool, damp cloth to cover the burned area. This should help to get the heat out. Then, let the skin air dry and put on some moisturizer. You can repeat this method of cooling the skin a couple of times each day as the burn is healing.
- It will be important to keep your child hydrated. A recovering burn can take fluid from the rest of the body so have them drink plenty of water. This is something to keep a close eye on with children. They can get dehydrated easily.
- Moisturizing lotion can be very soothing for a sunburned child. Choose something that contains aloe vera. Use this frequently until the burn has healed. Here are some additional tips for using lotion or creams from the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin. Lotions that have something called aloe vera in them help make your skin feel better. Be careful not to use lotions or creams that have any of these things listed in the ingredients: petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. Things with petroleum trap the heat in your skin (and you don’t want that!) and benzocaine and lidocaine can bother and irritate your skin. If a particular area feels especially uncomfortable, you may want to apply a hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription.
- Depending on the severity of the burn, you may want to give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever. Medicines like Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and others can provide relief from the pain and swelling of a bad sunburn. Be sure to follow the directions and if you have any questions, you can always come and see us.
Be sure to take special care of your child as their skin heals. Keep them out of the sun so the burn doesn’t get worse. Wearing loose clothing to protect the skin will help too. If you can — and this is hard with young children — make sure that they don’t pick at the area, rub it or make it peel.
When To Seek Medical Attention
It is rare for a sunburn to need medical attention. But if you think that your child might have one, some symptoms that you can look for are chills, headaches, confusion, faintness, sensitivity to light, fatigue, nausea, fever, discoloration, facial swelling, clammy skin, rapid pulse or breathing, and blistering on a large portion of their body.
We know that repeatedly putting your skin through bad sunburns can do more damage than the typical redness and pain that come with burnt skin. Too much exposure to the ultraviolet light can potentially cause long-term damage to your child’s skin — increasing their chances of getting skin cancer. Other negative results that can come from too much exposure include dry or wrinkled skin, dark spots, and rough spots.
Just 4 Kids Urgent Care
It may take 24 hours or even longer for the full effect of a sunburn to set in. And it might take several days or longer to fade. At Just 4 Kids, we don’t want to see you or your child suffer unnecessarily with a sunburn. But, it is bound to happen. And when it does, remember that we are experts in treating your sunburned toddlers, teens, and in-betweens!