Sunburns can be more serious than most believe, especially on a child. Seek treatment from your physician if the sunburn has blistered over a large portion of your child’s body or if it is extremely painful. Also call your doctor if your child experiences facial swelling, a fever, chills, a headache, confusion or faintness. Other symptoms that signal the need for medical attention are signs of dehydration — such as increased thirst or dry eyes — and signs of infection on the skin, such as increasing redness, swelling or puss.
To minimize the damage caused by sunburn, the most important thing is to remove your child from the sun immediately after seeing the burn. You can then treat symptoms by placing the child in a cool shower or bath, or by applying cool compresses several times a day. It’s also important to push extra fluids for the next two to three days to avoid dehydration and promote healing. You can give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, but do not use aspirin in children or teenagers. Don’t break blisters, which will increase the risk of infection. It’s also important to keep sunburned areas covered from the sun until they’re healed.
Serious sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. The key to avoiding the pain and minimizing the risk is to keep burns from happening in the first place. You should avoid the sun if possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when it is strongest. If you must be in the sun, use a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15, even on cloudy days. You should put sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before heading outside and reapply every hour or so if your child is sweating or swimming. For even greater protection, cover your child’s skin with protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat. Be careful on the water and the beach, where cool breezes can lull you into a false sense of safety from sunburn.