Baby’s first sunburn

Parents generally do their best to keep their babies safe from sunburns, but besides keeping children inside 24/7 (don’t do this), there’s no surefire way to completely prevent sunburns from happening. Even if you cover Baby head-to-toe in clothes, they still have to breathe! Sunburns can happen quicker than you might think, and at times when it might not even seem like the sun is shining, so it’s important to know how to handle them, and to remember that they’re not the end of the world.

So Baby got a sunburn…what’s next?

A sunburn can take up to 24 hours to reveal how serious it is, so it’s a good idea to monitor all sunburns very closely. Many healthcare providers and experts recommend that if a child is under 12 months, you should contact the doctor, no matter what. You should speak to the doctor about their suggested protocol for mild sunburns. If Baby gets a mild sunburn past 12 months, it’s almost definitely okay to treat it at home.

However, it the sunburn is blistering, causes a fever, or results in vomiting, headaches, signs of dehydration, or severe pain, you should call the doctor no matter how old Baby is.

How do I treat it?

If the sunburn is mild enough to not need a doctor visit, or if he or she has given you the ‘all-clear,’ there are some things you do to help Baby get more comfortable while waiting the couple of days it generally takes for a mild sunburn to heal.

  • Avoid the sun: as you might expect, it’s definitely best to keep Baby out of the sun while their burn continues to heal.
  • Cool water/compress: to help relieve the discomfort caused by the burn, you can have Baby take a cool water bath, run the affected area under cold water, or apply a cold compress or soaked washcloth. For very mild sunburns, this is often enough to relieve the discomfort.
  • Acetaminophen: if it’s clear that Baby is in much discomfort, and they are 3 months old or older, you can give them some acetaminophen to help relieve the pain. Just make sure to check the dosing recommendations before administering any medication. If Baby is younger than 3 months old, it’s safest to check in with your healthcare provider before giving Baby any medication.
  • Aloe/calamine: aloe vera and calamine are both safe to use on babies, and so can be used in the case of serious sunburns.
  • Drink drink drink: babies younger than 12 months should stick to breast milk or formula – and plenty of it – when they have a sunburn, but those older than 12 months should drink lots of water. Fluids will help the skin heal, and will also help prevent dehydration.

The bottom line

Sunburns are nothing to mess around with – they’re painful, and some research indicates that severe ones can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. Children over 6 months can use sunscreen, while those under 6 months should largely remain guarded by clothes and shaded from the sun.

  • “Sunburn: Treatment and Prevention.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved June 28 2017.
  • “Treating Sunburn in Children.” Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Foundation, August 27 2013. Retrieved June 28 2017. 
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