Q. We are planning a family vacation to the beach. What is the best way to treat sunburn? I would like to be prepared, just in case.
First and foremost when discussing sunburns, the focus is always on prevention. Once sunburned, the skin is damaged and it cannot be reversed. The best prevention advice includes:
• Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
• Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Keep infants out of the sun.
• Re-apply sunscreen every hour.
• Wear sun-protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when possible.
Sometimes, sunburn occurs despite a parent’s best efforts. Sunburn is typically minor and resolves on its own within several days. Until the sunburn has healed, it’s important to avoid further sun exposure and to increase fluid intake.
The following are safe ways to treat sunburn-related pain:
• Place cool wet cloths on the burned area or take a tepid bath.
• Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
• Apply aloe vera ointment.
• Use 1 percent hydrocortisone cream twice a day to decrease inflammation.
Blistering indicates more severe, or second-degree, sunburn. If the blistered area is very small (coin-sized), treat it like minor sunburn. Do not “pop” the blister. If the blisters cover a larger area of skin, or if a very young child has a second-degree burn, he should be seen by a doctor.
With widespread sunburn, a person may experience nausea, headache, dizziness and vomiting. If your child has any of these symptoms, seek urgent medical care because he could be at risk of dehydration.
Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; put “pediatrician,” in the subject line.
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