There are not a lot of suitable treatments for sunburn, thus it is vital to regularly use sunscreen or sunblock while out in the beach in order to prevent getting sunburn in the first place. In addition, getting sunburn a number of times can put him/her at risk for skin cancer later in life.

What are the symptoms of sunburn?

Even though a child can get sunburn in as little as 15-30 minutes of sun exposure without adequate protection, the symptoms of sunburn do not typically develop until about 2-6 hours later.

The usual symptoms include reddened skin, pain and even blisters and oftentimes fever. After 4-7 days, the sunburned skin of the child usually peels.


When it comes to a 1st degree burn, the skin of the child turns red and painful but there are no blisters.

A close look on sunburn

Sunburn is a burn but instead of being caused by a hot stove or curling iron, it is caused by prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun.

Just like with other type of burns, sunburns can lead to 1st degree burns that are considered as the most common type. When it comes to a 1st degree burn, the skin of the child turns red and painful but there are no blisters. As for severe or deep sunburns, they can lead to 2nd degree burns and accompanied by blister formation on the skin and even 3rd degree burns in rare cases.

Managing a sunburn

The objective of sunburn treatment is to provide comfort to the child and reduce the pain, particularly during the first few days when the sunburn is the most painful.

The commonly used treatment options for sunburn include the following:

  • Provide the child with extra fluids to drink to prevent dehydration
  • Give pain medications such as Tylenol or a stronger, prescription-strength pain medication if needed.
  • Cool bath or shower
  • Use a cool wet compress and soothing lotions such as those that contain aloe vera
  • Topical steroids such as hydrocortisone cream can be used
  • Oral steroids (only if needed)
  • Prescription burn cream
  • An oral antihistamine and topical moisturizer can be used once the sunburned area starts to peel and become itchy

In case blisters are present, instruct the individual not to break them since this can increase the risk for infection. Once the blisters break on their own over a span of a few days, you can apply an antibiotic ointment a few times in a day and make sure that they are covered using a bandage to prevent infection from developing.

Some doctors do not recommend using over-the-counter sunburn treatment using topical anesthetic since they can cause allergic skin rashes.

What you need to know about sunburns

Many children can recovery from sunburn over 2-7 days depending on the severity with the first few days as the worst.

A doctor should be consulted if the child has severe sunburn accompanied by fever, blisters and/or if it covers a large area of the body. There are certain medications including those used in treating acne that can put the child at increased risk for severe sunburns.

It is important to note that many individuals received more than 50 percent of their lifetime UV exposure during childhood, thus it is vital to protect children from sun exposure and sunburns. Hopefully, this can help minimize their risk for skin cancer later on in life.

While the child is recovering from sunburn, there are certain things to avoid that can aggravate the sunburned skin such as hot showers or baths and be careful not to expose the child to the sun again. Aside from the soreness, the sunburned areas are even more susceptible to be harmed by the sun.

A doctor should be consulted if the sunburn of the child starts to show signs of infection along with increased swelling, redness, drainage or pain.


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