First Aid: Sunburn

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First AidSunburn can happen within 15 minutes of being in the sun, but the redness and discomfort may not be noticed for a few hours. Repeated sunburns can lead to skin cancer. Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for kids who have many moles or freckles, very fair skin and hair, or a family history of skin cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

Mild:

  • skin redness and warmth
  • pain
  • itchiness

Severe:

  • skin redness and blistering
  • pain and tingling
  • swelling
  • headache
  • nausea
  • fever and chills
  • dizziness

What to Do

  • Remove your child from the sun right away.
  • Place your child in a cool (not cold) shower or bath — or apply cool compresses as often as needed.
  • Give extra fluids for the next 2 to 3 days.
  • Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed, if needed, to relieve pain.
  • Use moisturizing creams or aloe gel to provide comfort.
  • When going outside, all sunburned areas should be fully covered to protect the skin from the sun until healed.

Seek Emergency Medical Care

If:

  • a sunburn forms blisters or is extremely painful
  • your child has facial swelling from a sunburn
  • a sunburn covers a large area
  • your child has fever or chills after getting sunburned
  • your child has a headache, confusion, or a feeling of faintness
  • you see signs of dehydration (increased thirst or dry eyes and mouth)

Think Prevention!

  • Minimize kids' summer sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Have kids wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and a hat.
  • Apply sunscreen that provides UVB and UVA protection with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and 30 minutes after exposure begins, then reapply after kids have been swimming or sweating.
  • Although the best way to protect babies 6 months of age or younger is to keep them shaded, you can use minimal amounts of sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 15) on small exposed areas, like the face.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014



Related Resources

OrganizationAAP Pediatric Referral Department Use this website to find a pediatrician in your area or to find general health information for parents from birth through age 21.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Dermatology Provides up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.
Web SiteThe Skin Cancer Foundation The Skin Cancer Foundation educates people about skin cancer and ways to prevent it.


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Sun Safety By teaching kids how to enjoy fun in the sun safely, parents can reduce their risk for developing skin cancer.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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