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Babies and Sunburn

Easing Irritability and Sunburn Pain

In a nutshell, sunburns need to be treated like any other burn. Doctor Barbara Huggins, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Center at Tyler, suggests these top tips:

  • Limit physical touch to the sunburned areas.
  • Keep Baby cool and out of any additional sun exposure.
  • Give plenty of liquids. Make sure Baby is well hydrated, and learn the signs of dehydration.
  • Give Baby a cool bath and apply cool compresses to the burned areas.
  • If applying moisturizer, avoid Benadryl or benzocaine products as these can irritate the skin.
  • If clothing is necessary, then choose very soft, 100-percent cotton garments that can breathe (otherwise, just keep Baby in a diaper).
  • If Baby has blisters, don’t pop them. As long as the blister is intact, the burn underneath is sterile. Once they’re popped, the area is open to infection.
  • With continued irritability, you might try a dose of pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If your child has symptoms of heat stress such as fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, see a doctor immediately. And “if the sunburn is severe, with many areas of blistering, the child needs to be evaluated by a physician because, as with any second-degree burn (and that’s what a blistering sunburn is), the child can easily get dehydrated because of the oozing associated with burns,” says Huggins.

Long-term Consequences of Sunburn

While most parents protect their children from overexposure to the sun, sometimes they can’t avoid it. In the long term, the problems associated with sunburn are serious and include premature aging and skin cancer.
“It is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of total lifetime sun exposure occurs in the first 18 years of life,” Dr. Huggins says. “It’s one of the reasons that sun protection should begin at birth and continue for life, especially in children with fair skin and freckles. Though the initial risk of developing melanoma is rare, it doubles with a history of having had a bad sunburn. The more sunburn, the higher the risk.”

Preventative Care

Want to stop the burn before it even happens and keep your baby’s disposition sunny and bright? Just follow these suggestions for keeping sunburns at bay:

  • Apply sunscreen evenly on children under 6 months.
  • Keep children (including infants) out of the direct sun, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM.
  • Allow for 10 to 15 minutes to play in the pool or outside, and then cover up.
  • Consider buying the new UVA protective shirts. Also, dress the child in a hat.
  • If the infant or child falls asleep outside, be sure the sun is at his or her back and not reflecting off water or a pool deck.
  • Be aware that sun, even through tree branches, can burn, as can the sun’s rays on cloudy days.
  • Comfort measures include cool compresses on the sunburned skin, vinegar compresses, aloe creams, and plenty of fluids.
  • Driving in a convertible or a car with sun streaming in the window can also be a cause of sunburn.
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