Q. It seems like we always have at least one child with sunburn every summer. What are the best ways to manage it?
A. When discussing sunburns the focus is always on prevention. Once sunburn occurs, the skin has been irreversibly damaged. The best advice for prevention includes:
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• Apply 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.
On occasion, sunburn occurs despite a parent’s best efforts. Sunburn is typically minor and resolves on its own over several days. Until the sunburn has healed, it is important to avoid further sun exposure and to increase fluid intake. Safe ways to treat sunburn pain include:
• Place cool, wet cloths on the burned area or take a tepid bath.
• Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
• Apply aloe vera ointment.
• Apply a 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), this can be treated similarly to 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 a risk of dehydration.