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What to Do When Your Little One Gets a Sunburn

Posted on 04 July 2022

Sun protection is important - especially for your little ones. Infant and toddler skin is particularly sensitive to harmful UV rays and susceptible to severe sunburns. While your diligent efforts to apply sunscreen to your protesting toddler go a long way to prevent sunburns, at some point, they may get one! What do you do when your baby or toddler gets a sunburn?

Before the Sunburn

Even though sunburns and summer are synonymous for many of us, sunburns are not to be taken lightly with little ones. So, before anything else, here are some simple ways to prevent sunburns before you even have to treat them:

  1. Limit exposure and keep the baby inside on sunny days. The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so if you do go out, try and go out before or after.
  2. Use sunscreen if your baby is 6 months old or older. Make sure that the sunscreen is formulated for baby's sensitive skin and one that won't sting if it gets into their eyes. Look for a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF that is waterproof. Don't forget to reapply every two hours.
  3. Dress your little one in sun-protective clothing. This is light, airy clothing that covers your little one's arms and legs. Wide-brim hats are also great for protecting their face and neck. Little Leaves has a great selection for kids between 1-4 years of age.

After the Sunburn

How you treat a sunburn varies slightly between babies and toddlers, although many of the principles are the same. Let's take a look at both age groups separately.

Infants and Babies

If you've ever had a sunburn, you know they hurt! And so your primary task is to soothe the pain. Here are three ways to go about it, depending on the severity:

  1. A cool water compress. This is a simple way to soothe the pain that you most likely have on hand. Wet a washcloth with cool tap water and apply the washcloth to the sunburned area for 10 to 15 minutes as needed.
  2. Aloe vera gel. Aloe vera gel is a plant-based product that simultaneously soothes and moisturizes the damaged skin. You can find it in most stores.
  3. Ibuprofen. If baby seems in a lot of pain or if there is swelling, you can give then ibuprofen if they are six months old or older. Be sure to only give the recommended amount and to call your pediatrician for their approval. 

After the pain has been managed, your next task is to keep the baby hydrated! Sunburns cause fluids to escape from the skin, causing dehydration. Offer an extra bottle or nursing session to replenish their liquids. The baby will probably find the extra feeding calming after being in pain. And remember to keep the baby out of the sun until the sunburn is fully healed.

Toddlers

Toddlers have much stronger opinions about what they will and will not tolerate when it comes to sun protection. Some toddlers will refuse that wide-brim hat, and others will have a meltdown as soon as you pull out the sunscreen! Whatever gauntlet your toddler puts you through, any effort to protect their delicate skin is worth it.

When your toddler ends up with a sunburn, there are several ways you can manage their pain and discomfort at home.

  1. A cool bath. Toddlers are old enough to enjoy a cool bath. It can be soothing and fun!
  2. Aloe vera gel. Like with a baby, aloe vera gel is a great way to soothe and moisturize the damaged skin.
  3. Ibuprofen. This will help manage any swelling. You can also use other over-the-counter pain relievers for children. Remember to never give a child aspirin. 

It's very important to rehydrate your toddler, so make sure they drink extra over the next several days. Pedialyte is a great, pediatrician-recommended beverage that works much like a sports drink for babies and toddlers. If the sunburn has developed blisters, call your pediatrician and make sure your curious toddler your toddler doesn't poke at them too much and break them open!

Conclusion

The best treatment for sunburns is prevention! Skin protection is so important at any age, but it is particularly important with kids so young. If you're looking for child-friendly sun protection,  contact us with any questions or inquiries. As both physicians and parents, we understand the concerns you have about your child's skin protection. 

 

 

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