Tips for toddler sunburns

If you’ve had a sunburn before, you know that they’re pretty easy to recognize, and they’re pretty uncomfortable. After sun exposure, your skin will usually start to hurt within a few hours and start peeling within a day or two. If Baby gets a sunburn, you’ll likely notice redness, maybe swelling, and if it’s severe enough, peeling skin. Baby will notice that their skin hurts and feels itchy.

How to prevent a sunburn

The best ways to prevent sunburns are to avoid the sun, apply (and reapply) SPF 30+ sunscreen, and wear clothes and hats that cover any exposed skin. It seems simple, but the sun can be a sneaky little giant ball of burning gas! It can catch you when you’re outside a little longer than you expected, when you’re in the car, and even through clouds. You can’t always anticipate the weather or how long you’re going to be in the sun, so do your best to keep sunscreen in many different places so you’ll have access to it in a pinch. Keep a bottle near the door to your home, in your car if you have one, and maybe even keep a travel-sized bottle on you when you leave the house. Try to plan your outdoor activities when the sun isn’t super high or bright.

How to treat a sunburn

A bad sunburn can also cause symptoms like blisters, fever, nausea, chills, or faintness. If the sunburn is severe enough to trigger these symptoms, take your child to see a healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment. If it’s just a standard “should have put on more sunscreen” burn, on the other hand, you can take some of these steps:

  • Avoid being in the sun until the sunburn heals
  • Make sure Baby stays hydrated
  • Run the burn under cold water, give Baby cool baths, or use cool compresses
  • Apply aloe vera gel or a topical pain reliever for children
  • Keep Baby from picking at any blisters

There’s really no way around it: the first day with a sunburn is going to be unpleasant no matter what you do. Using aloe vera gel can be soothing, and you can give your toddler ibuprofen or acetaminophen if they are really uncomfortable. The best thing you can do is keep Baby from thinking about the sunburn and covering it so they can&;t pick at it. It might be too painful to cover on the first day, but it should start to show signs of improvement after about 48 hours, and you and Baby will be right back to playing outside – just with a little more sunscreen.  

  • “Sunburn and Children.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Johns Hopkins University. Accessed May 25, 2017.,P01929/
  • “Sunburn.” Seattle Children’s. Seattle Children’s Hospital. September 1, 2012.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sunburn: First aid.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. February 6, 2015.
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