What Causes Sunburn In The First Place?
The sun releases ultraviolet radiation that is invisible to the human eye. Both ultraviolet A (UVA rays) and ultraviolet B (UVB rays) are emitted from the sun. UVA rays damage the skin and ages our skin. UVB rays are associated with sunburn. Both of these harmful UV rays increase the risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer may take many years to develop.
There are a variety of skin cancers that UVA and UVB rays can cause. Among these cancers are malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. One example of the latter is basal cell carcinoma. Skin cancer is insidious, as you are not aware of the damage to the skin cells. Typically, there is no pain when this cancer first develops. A person will see just a mole that changed color or starts to bleed.
It’s not just the sun that can cause skin damage. The ultraviolet radiation produced by the UV light in tanning beds is just as dangerous. The bottom line is that UV exposure is unhealthy no matter the age or the source .
Fortunately, melanoma is rare in children. However, if your child is prone to moles and they change in appearance, don’t hesitate to have them checked out by your pediatrician or dermatologist. By protecting your children’s health now, you are giving them a better future.
The Many Dangers Of Sunburn In Young Children
Parents must be cautious with babies and toddlers due to their sensitive skin. The skin cells of babies and toddlers are so fragile that they are easily vulnerable to damage. Young children absorb the rays of the sun faster and get sunburns quicker than an average adult.
What other damage besides cancer can excessive exposure to the sun cause? Besides the pain of a sunburn that is caused by the ultraviolet rays, children (and adults) are also at risk of developing heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sun poisoning, heat rash, sunburn, or an allergic reaction .
A baby sunburn can do more than just hurt. Sunburn can easily harm babies and children. Burns can occur in as little as fifteen minutes of direct sun exposure. The degree of burns depends on the time of day your baby is out, direct exposure to the sun and where you live in the world. Exposure to harmful UV rays is at its highest from around ten o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon. Avoid taking your baby or toddlers out at these times of the day .
The symptoms of baby sunburn can include fussiness, inflamed skin, and redness. Your child may complain about pain when touched on the affected area. Typically, you do not need to call a doctor. However, if your child starts to run a fever, struggle with the pain, experiences lethargy or vomiting, you should call your doctor immediately. Sometimes, the burned skin develops fluid-filled blisters. Teach your child to avoid any urge to pop these fluid-filled blisters. This can lead to infection and possible scarring. Severe sunburns, such as those that cause blisters, can increase the risk of skin cancer .
Baby Sunburn on Face
It’s essential for parents to prevent their baby from experiencing a sunburn on the face. Severe sunburn can occur quickly due to baby’s sensitive skin. You want to avoid the development of blisters on the face, as well as possible infection, and scarring.
A heat rash is not the same as a diaper rash. Although both have redness, a heat rash occurs on places that are exposed to the sun, whereas a diaper rash occurs in the area around the diaper. This skin condition is common and can be seen as tiny pinkish dots on the skin. Some parents confuse eczema with a heat rash. However, the former manifests as a raised, red area and the latter has blister-like bumps. A heat rash can often be found where your baby gets very hot, such as the chest, back, or neck areas. If your child develops a heat rash, take them out of the sun and strip your baby’s clothes to help them breathe and cool down. Once the skin is allowed exposure to the air, the rash typically goes away .
Did you know that certain people can be allergic to the sun? That is because the immune system treats skin that has been altered by the sun as foreign cells. Symptoms include hives, blisters, or a rash (polymorphous light reaction-PMLE). The rash can be quite itchy. Scaling, crusting, or bleeding may also occur. Photosensitivity to the sun can occur within moments of sun exposure. Lightly pigmented skin, specific foods, certain medications, or some skin conditions increase the risk of an allergic reaction to the sun. Photosensitivity to the sun also tends to run in families. For those that have this condition, prevention is key. If the redness becomes persistent or severe in your child, you should immediately schedule a visit with your pediatrician .
Heat exhaustion typically occurs in children who are very active in the sun. Dehydration sets in and children may feel fatigued, thirsty, a lack of energy, and the feeling of being overheated. They may even faint. They may also experience thirst and dry lips and tongue. If your child develops these symptoms, move them immediately to the shade (or indoors), undress them, have them lie down, and raise their feet a bit. Depending on the severity of exhaustion, you may need to seek medical advice.
When a child suffers a heat stroke, they may experience a severe headache, confusion, dizziness, and seizures. You may notice a rapid heart rate and fast breathing, hot, flushed, dry skin with little or no sweating. The child may pass out. This condition requires immediate emergency attention .
Sun poisoning is not really poisoning in the typical sense of the word. Rather, it is another term to describe a severe case of sunburn. Too much UV radiation can lead to extreme sunburn and flu-like symptoms. Although a child can experience sunburn within 15 minutes, the redness and pain may not manifest itself until several hours later. While relatively uncommon, children and babies who experience sun poisoning typically have inflamed and red skin, experience lethargy, become fussy, develop a fever, and have irregular breathing. Children may get dehydrated easily. If you think your child is developing sun poisoning, immediately get them out of the sun. Depending on the age and severity, you may be able to give ibuprofen to help relieve the pain. But, always seek medical advice from your pediatrician first, as ibuprofen is not recommended for children under 6 months old. Some cases of sun poisoning require immediate medical attention .
Top 10 Home Remedies For Sunburn
If your child develops a sunburn, make sure they remain well hydrated. Have them drink lots of water or fluids because sunburn can cause dehydration. Keep them safe and away from UV exposure until such time; the skin is healed. Seek medical attention immediately if your baby is under one year old, has a severe burn, or symptoms are indicative a heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or sun poisoning.
Keep your children out of the sun during the hours when UVA rays and UVB rays are at their strongest. This can sometimes be difficult as children like to play outside. So, it’s imperative that children wear protective clothing and sunscreen. This is especially important at the beach or pool. Additionally, swimming also means more sun exposure. Remember, being in the water may prevent your kids from feeling the heat of a burn, as the water cools down the skin.
Organic Solutions For Treating Baby Sunburn
For very mild sunburns, you can try these homeopathic and organic home remedies for your baby’s skin heal .
Cold water can soothe and take away the pain and heat your child is experiencing with their sunburned skin. Never attempt to scrub the skin or use other harsh products like soap with heavy perfume or a bubble bath. The chemicals can further irritate the skin.
Aloe has been used since ancient times. You can use the natural aloe gel from the plant to ease any burning sensation and discomfort. Aloe is used to moisturize the skin and speed up the healing process. If you have an aloe vera plant, pick a leaf and split it to expose the gel-like core. Aloe gel is a viscous material which can be spread over the affected skin. Alternatively, you can purchase organic aloe vera gel from the local pharmacy. (Look for organic aloe.)
Witch hazel is made from the bark and leaves of the Hamamelis Virginiana plant. It can help reduce the inflammation, itching, and pain of sunburn. Apply witch hazel to the affected area using a wet or damp washcloth or gauze made of cotton. Use it about 3 – 4 times a day to help stop the pain and reduce itching. Keep in mind that certain people can be allergic to witch hazel, and other plant-based products, so always test on a small area of the skin first.
Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen veggies from the fridge and wrap it in a soft towel before applying it on your baby’s burn. Do not place this cold compress of ice directly on the affected area as it can cause further skin damage and result in frostbite.
Honey has been valued as a topical burn remedy since the time of the pharaohs. Egyptians have used it as an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory and help hasten to heal. However, do not use this honey on babies under one-year-old, as it contains botulism spores that they can accidentally ingest.
When mixed with baby’s bath water, finely ground oats can help reduce inflammation of sunburn. It contains active inflammatory ingredients that can help cure burns. You can pulverize oats with a food processor and then place the powdery grain in a warm bath and let your baby or kid bathe in it.
Coriander oil is a popular burn remedy used by many mothers worldwide. They believe that this essential oil is capable of reducing inflammation and pain in sunburned patients.
Refrigerate the milk. When it cools down, place some on a cotton cloth or gauze. Apply directly and very softly on the reddish and inflamed area to ease your baby’s discomfort and helps minimize the heat.
In a bowl, combine a half a cup of cornstarch and half a cup of baking soda. Mix well and soak it in your baby’s bath water to help relieve any itching and inflammation.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar offers relief from itching, inflammation, as well as pain. Place a cup of apple cider vinegar in the bath water and let it soak.
Other Sunburn Remedies For Babies, Toddlers, And Older Kids
Although you do everything within your power to keep your child safe, there are times when sunburns can occur without you realizing it. The good thing is that there are some few quick steps you can do to make your child comfortable . Here are a few other remedies you can try:
Use an organic moisturizer to soothe the inflamed skin of your child. It is vital that you always keep your baby’s skin moisturized. Stay away from petroleum jelly as it easily traps heat and moisture, as well as block pores and prevents sweating. This can worsen your baby’s sunburn and increase the risk of infection. An organic moisturizer promotes healing by using healthy ingredients and no harsh chemicals that can be absorbed through your child’s sensitive skin.
Use Antibiotic Ointment
Your pediatrician may suggest an antibiotic ointment if the sunburn is severe enough to cause blisters. However, typically, topical antibiotics are not used for sunburns that result in just redness. Do not use a medicated cream unless your doctor says it’s okay.
Hydrocortisone cream is sometimes used as a treatment to reduce pain and swelling. When applied soon after a sunburn, it can be an effective means to hasten the healing process. However, always check with your doctor before applying it to young children.
Apply Cool Compresses
For kids, a cool compress may relieve the pain. The same is true with sunburns. Use a soft washcloth and wet with cold water. Gently pat it on the burned areas of your baby’s skin. It will help soothe the itchiness and pain they are experiencing.
How Long Can Sunburn Last?
Sunburn in babies, toddlers, and older kids typically lasts from 1 to 3 days, depending on the severity and age of the child. If you follow these tips, your baby may recuperate quicker. Remember, the younger the baby, the more sensitive skin.
How To Prevent Sunburn in Children
The best way to avoid sunburn is to keep it from ever happening to your baby . These tips can help safeguard your baby from the sun:
Avoid sun exposure
Avoid the sun around 10 am to 4 pm every day. Do not expose your child out in the sun, especially around midday, when the sun is at its hottest. If going out is inevitable, wear sunscreen and protective covering to help shield your child from the harmful UV rays of the sun. When outside, encourage your children to play in the shade.
Sunscreen is not really recommended for babies 6 months or younger, however, check with your doctor as to whether you can apply a minimal amount. In general, for these little ones, parents should seek to limit exposure to the sun. That includes indoors. Babies should be kept away from direct sunlight within a house .
There are several sunscreen products on the market. Check the ingredients and avoid those that contain harsh chemicals. Choose an organic sunscreen lotion with non-nano zinc oxide. This type of zinc oxide provides a barrier on the skin from the sun’s harmful rays while preventing harmful absorption of chemicals into the skin. Also, make sure that the sunscreen lotion that you use is water resistant if you plan on being in the water. Use sunscreen sparingly on small areas to prevent baby sunburn on the face and hands. While PAPA (para-aminobenzoic acid) is a popular sunscreen ingredient, it is not effective when the skin is submerged in water.
Keep kids hydrated at all times. Make cool water accessible with colorful water bottles.
Use Hats, Umbrella, and Other Protective Clothing
Prevention is always better than cure.
- Wide-brimmed hat. Investing in a wide-brimmed hat for everyone in the family is worthwhile. Some even have a longer back to cover the neck.
- Sunglasses. High UV levels can also affect the eyes.
- Umbrella. The more protection from UV rays, the better.
- Clothes. It’s important to cover up your child. Clothes made from light, breathable material, such as cotton can protect from UVA and UVB rays while still being lightweight enough to wear in the hot weather.
Preventing Baby Sunburn On Face
Preventing your baby from getting sunburned on the face can be difficult. Use a multi-prong approach.
- Avoid direct exposure to sunlight between 10 am – 4 pm, whether outside or inside the house.
- Use a wide-brimmed hat.
- Utilize an organic sunscreen if your baby is older than 6 months. This will help protect from the sun without the added worry of harsh chemicals being absorbed into the skin. Apply sparingly to the face.
The Bottom Line: Dangers of Baby Sunburn
UVA rays and UVB rays are invisible, and the long-term damage is not always readily apparent. Protecting your children’s health is for the long-term when it comes to protection from the sun. Baby sunburn can occur quickly due to their sensitive skin. The effects of sunburn can linger for years and, as mentioned earlier, increases the risk of cancer. That is why UV exposure at any age is risky, but especially for babies and young children.
Baby Sunburn Resources: American Academy Of Dermatology Association; Sunscreen FAQs.
 Seattle Children’s; Sunburn, Last Reviewed: May 27, 2019.
 Healthy Children; Sunburn: Treatment and Prevention, November 21, 2015.
 Stanford Children’s Health; Sunburn And Children, 2019.
 Medical News Today; What To know about heat rash in babies, What to know about heat rash in babies, Zawn Villines, March 13, 2019.
 Mayo Clinic; Sun Allergy, July 2018.
 Kids Health; First Aid: Heat Illness, Kate M. Cronan, MD, July 2018.
 Medical News Today; What’s to know about sun poisoning?, Alice Porter, June 20, 2017.
 Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School; How to treat a child’s sunburn, Claire McCarthy, MD, July 2018.
 Skin Cancer Foundation; Treating Sun Burn In Children, August 2013.
 Medical News Today; Coconut oil for sunburn: Does it work? , By Megan Metropulos, MR, RDN, and Megan Ware, RDN, LD, August 25, 2017.
 Centers For Disease Control And Prevention; How Can I Protect My Children from the Sun?, April 23, 2018.
 U.S. Food & Drug Administration; Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually.