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Topic: General Child Health

This handout was written to answer some questions most often asked about sunburns. Please feel free to ask your doctor or nurse to go over any information you do not understand.

What is a Sunburn?
A sunburn is due to skin being in contact with the ultra-violet (UV) rays of the sun, a sunlamp or a tanning bed for too long a time. The symptoms of sunburn may not begin until two to four hours after the sun’s damage has been done. The redness, pain and swelling will increase for 24-hours. Minor sunburns are a first-degree burn (skin turns pink or red). Being in the sun longer can cause a second-degree burn (blistering). Spending a lot of time in the sun and tanning cause early aging of the skins (wrinkling, sagging and brown spots). Sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer in the sunburned area that happened during childhood. Blistering sunburns increases the risk of getting malignant melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer).

How do I take care of a sunburn?
Pain Relief:
- Acetaminophen (Liquiprin®, Panadol Tempra® and Tylenol®) or Ibuprofin products (Advil®, Motrin®) when started early and given for two-days can decrease the pain.
- Over the counter cream of ½ % hydrocortisone or moisturizing creams put on three times every day may cut down on swelling and pain, but only if used before blisters appear.
- Cool baths or wet cloths on the burn several times daily.
- Showers are usually too painful.
- Avoid petrolatum (Vaseline®), butter or other ointments on a sunburn; they are painful to get off and not helpful.
- Avoid first aid creams or sprays for burns. They often contain benzocaine that can cause a rash.
- The skin may peel in about a week. Use a moisturizing cream on the skin.
- Give extra water to replace the water lost into sunburned skin and to prevent more loss of water and dizziness.

How can I prevent sunburns?
- Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 45 or higher). Reapply every two hours. Don’t apply sunscreen to areas where a small child may lick it off or near their eyes.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim.
- Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection. Ultraviolet light increases the risk of cataracts.
- Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
- Wear tightly woven, protective clothing. Over 30% of the sun’s rays can penetrate loosely woven fabrics.
- When outdoors, encourage kids to play in the shade.

Other tips:
− The skin of infants is thinner and more sensitive to the sun. Use long pants, shirts and hats for sun protection. Don’t use sunscreen on infants less than six months old.
− Don’t let cloudy days give you a false sense of security. Over 70% of the sun’s rays still get through the clouds.
− Apply sunscreen 30-minutes before exposure to the sun to give it time to penetrate the skin.
− Give special attention to the areas most likely to become sunburned, such as nose, ears, cheeks and shoulders.
− Sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours, after playing, swimming, or exercising outdoors.
− A “waterproof” sunscreen stays on for about 30-minutes in water.
− Decrease daily time in the sun if the skin becomes reddened. Because of the two to four hour delay before sunburn starts, don’t expect symptoms to tell you when it is time to get out of the sun.
− Water, sand or snow increases the sun exposure. The shade from a hat or umbrella will not protect you from reflected rays.
− To prevent sunburned lips, apply a lip coating that also contains PABA.
− If your child’s nose or some other area has been burned during the summer, protect it completely from all the sun’s rays with zinc oxide ointment.

The best way to avoid skin cancer is to avoid sunburn. Although skin cancer is mainly an adult disease, it is caused by spending time in the sun and sunburns that happened during childhood. Every time you put sunscreen on your child, you are helping to avoid skin cancer later in life.

When should I call the doctor?
Immediately if:
- Your child is unable to look at light because of eye pain
- Your child has a fever over 101°F (38.4°C)
- The sunburn becomes infected
- Your child starts acting very sick
- You have other concerns or questions

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information on sunburns, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.


Derechos de autor(c) de The Children's Medical Center, ano 1999. Este material unicamente tiene fines educativos. No puede ser reproducido, distribuido ni modificado sin previa autorizacion de The Children's Medical Center of Dayton, One Children's Plaza, Dayton, Ohio, 45404-1815. Llame al 937-641-3666 para solicitar autorizacion o para obtener un juego maestro para copias. Para obtener mas informacion puede visitar (consulte la seccion de informacion legal).

La informacion contenida en este material es unicamente informacion de tipo general. No debe considerarse como completa. Para obtener mas informacion acerca de los complementos para leche materna, por favor pidala a su doctor.
Preparado: 1995
Corregido: 2000, 2002, 2006

The information contained in this handout is for general information only and should not be considered complete. For specific information about bathing your baby, please ask your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Additional information may be located in the Family Resource Center, 2nd floor, near the Outpatient Surgery Center. Hours of the center vary; please contact the Family Resource Center at 937-641-3700.

Copyright(c) The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced or distributed without permission from Dayton Children's.
Formulated: 1995
Revised: 2000, 2002, 2006


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