Summer Safety Tips: Preventing and treating sunburn

Summer is synonymous with kids having fun in the sun, but too much time spent soaking up the rays can lead to uncomfortable sunburn. And getting a sunburn isn’t just a matter of temporary discomfort.

“Parents need to be aware that sunburns correlate to an increased rate of skin cancer down the line, so it’s not only a matter of comfort, but also an important medical consideration" says Dr. Pamela Sanders, a Houston-area pediatrician at Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center in Sugar Land, Texas.

Preventing sunburn

To avoid a burn in the first place, practice common sense. If possible, make sure your kids avoid exposure to the sun at peak hours when the sun’s rays are the strongest, typically between noon and 4:00 p.m. It’s also a good idea to make sure your child wears clothing that covers exposed skin like long sleeves or pants when possible. A hat and sunglasses can help cover the face.

Most importantly, always use sunscreen. "Sunburns are not infrequent in children, but it’s easily preventable with a good sunscreen," says Dr. Patrick Crocker, medical director of emergency medicine at Dell Children’s Medical center in Austin.

Crocker says you'll also want to get the right kind of sunscreen and apply it correctly: "Get one that’s SPF 15 or above and waterproof,  apply it to dry skin and all exposed skin before the child goes out in the sun."

It's a good idea to keep a bottle of sunscreen in your on-the-go bag during the summer to prevent unintended exposure and make sure the sunscreen blocks both UV-A and UV-B rays.

Treating sunburn

If preventing a sunburn didn’t work, home-based treatments are often the remedy. "Most sunburns are minor," Crocker says. "Children can be made more comfortable with Tylenol, Motrin or ibuprofen, as well as something cool like an aloe vera gel, and staying out of the sun until the skin is healed."

When to see a doctor for a sunburn

If it's a bad burn, such as those with blisters, it may be best to see a doctor, Sanders says. "Extensive blistering indicates a more severe burn and that the child should be seen by a doctor," she says.

"Occasionally, we see burns that are bad enough to cause blisters, which are second-degree burns," Crocker says. He says that parents should take their children to see a physician, such as an Austin pediatrician, if there are large areas of blisters or if they become infected.


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