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  • Most Sun Damage Occurs In Childhood: How To Prevent And Treat Sunburn

    Choose the right sunblock and protective clothes to lessen your child’s risk of sunburn.
    by Kate Borbon .
Most Sun Damage Occurs In Childhood: How To Prevent And Treat Sunburn
  • In the Philippines, you can generally expect it to be hot at any time of the year, especially in the summer. Whenever you’re under the sun, you don’t just risk getting hot; there’s also the possibility of suffering a skin condition that may be more common during the summer: sunburn in kids.

    Sunburn definition and symptoms

    Stanford Children’s Health describes sunburn as “a red, painful skin reaction after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.” According to Kids Health, sunburn in kids can happen within 15 minutes of exposure to the sun, though the redness and discomfort may not be noticed until much later.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children need to be protected from the sun’s rays since “most sun damage occurs in childhood.” However, it notes that a child doesn’t have to have sunburn for him to be harmed by the sun. Instead, the effects of sun exposure can build up over the years, contributing to issues like wrinkling, toughening, and even cancer of the skin in later life.


    According to Stanford Children’s Health, the most common symptoms of sunburn in kids include redness, swelling, pain, blisters, and dry, itching, and peeling for three to eight days after the burn happens. On the other hand, more severe cases of sunburn in kids can cause symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, and weakness, faintness, or confusion.

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    How to treat sunburn

    The AAP says that the signs of sunburn typically appear around six to twelve hours after exposure to the sun, and it causes the most discomfort during the first 24 hours after that. Ease the symptoms of sunburn in kids with these simple remedies.

    Give your child a cool bath

    According to the AAP, if a child’s burn is just warm, red, and painful, it can be treated with home remedies. Some first-aid treatments for sunburn in kids is a bath in cool water and the application of cold (not freezing) compress or towels to the burnt areas. Harvard Health explains these can help soothe the burn, and parents may choose to do either throughout the day if it helps.


    Apply moisturizing cream or aloe gel

    The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia advises using a topical moisturizer, hydrocortisone cream, or a topical pain reliever to treat sunburn in kids. Harvard Health also recommends using lotion and gel that contain aloe vera, which can be soothing to sunburned skin. Avoid products with petroleum, which can trap heat in the skin, and those with benzocaine or lidocaine, which can irritate sunburns.

    Watch for signs of dehydration

    Harvard Health says burned skin doesn’t retain fluid very well, so one important first-aid treatment is to have your child drink more fluids than usual. Give him a bottle of water and encourage him to drink from it frequently.

    Give him ibuprofen

    According to Children’s Hospital Colorado, ibuprofen is a recommended method of treatment for sunburn in kids because it can block the inflammatory reaction and reduce swelling and redness this condition causes. The hospital adds that ibuprofen should be administered early (if you think your child may have gotten too much sun) and that parents shouldn’t wait to see redness before giving this drug since redness is often not seen until hours after the child is exposed to the sun. If you’re uncertain about the dosage your child needs, call your doctor.


    Seek medical help

    The AAP says sunburn in kids requires medical attention if it causes blisters, fever, chills, headache, or a general feeling of illness. “Severe sunburn must be treated like any other serious burn, and if it’s very extensive, hospitalization sometimes is required. In addition, the blisters can become infected, requiring treatment with antibiotics.”

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    How to prevent sunburn

    One of the best ways to minimize the risk of sunburn in kids is to be aware of the simple things you can do to protect your child from the rays of the sun. Take note of these tips, moms and dads!

    Apply sunscreen

    According to a previous SmartParenting.com.ph article, not all sunscreens are created equally, so don’t forget to check the product before purchasing it. The best sunscreen to prevent sunburn in kids should have “broad spectrum” on its label (meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays), be at least SPF 30 (experts say anything with higher SPF has little added benefit), and water-resistant (meaning the SPF is maintained even if your child swims or sweats).


    Note that sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside, whether it’s sunny or cloudy, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

    Dress him appropriately

    To reduce the likeliness of sunburn in kids, the CDC recommends dressing your child in long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and long skirts, a hat with a brim that shades that face, ears, and the nape of the neck, as well as sunglasses, all of which can provide you with the protection you need from the sun.

    However, if it is not practical to wear this type of clothing, the CDC suggests dressing your child in a T-shirt or a beach cover-up and practicing other protective measures, like applying sunscreen.

    Keep him out of the sun at midday

    The AAP says that to lessen the risk of sunburn in kids, they should be kept out of the sun during the time of day when peak UV rays occur (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Items like an umbrella and a wide-brimmed hat can help provide the shade your child needs.


    Remember that babies less than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible. If shade and protective clothing are not available, however, the AAP recommends applying sunscreen of the baby’s body, like his face and the backs of his hands, to shield him from sunburn in kids.

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