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There’s nothing more sad than a baby in pain. An infant sunburn can be a very painful experience which is why it’s very important to apply sunscreen prior to being out in the direct sunlight for an extended period of time. I can’t stress this enough! A sunburn means damage has already occurred. According to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
“The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun,” Sachs says, “and to particularly avoid exposure to the sun in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense.”
Your baby has no say in their safety, so please, please, please always put sunscreen on your baby who is 6 months or older and keep younger babies out of the sun. Things happen though and sometimes it’s not always possible to beat the sunburn, and you find that you have an infant sunburn situation on your hands. Baby sunburns are nothing to mess around with, so what should you do?
Protocol when dealing with baby sunburns
The first thing you should do is to check your baby for blisters. If you notice blisters on the sunburn, you need to contact the pediatrician immediately. A doctor visit is typically in order if there are blisters present, as this indicates a second degree sunburn which requires a bit more care. Third degree sunburns are rare, but do happen and are very serious.
If you do not notice blisters, your next move is to ensure that your baby is well hydrated by offering breast milk, formula, or water (if he/she is old enough). Dehydration poses a whole different array of issues and it’s easy to avoid.
Next up when dealing with infant sunburn is to contact his or her pediatrician; you will likely be asked a series of questions to determine whether or not the sunburn is serious or not to need to take the baby in to the office to be examined, or to the ER for emergency treatment. Although you already checked that sweet, little baby for blisters, you should still call in to the pediatrician as they may want you to watch out for other symptoms that may indicate a problem. Remember, your pediatrician will know your child’s needs better than any internet article.
After you’ve talked to the pediatrician office, if you do not need to make a trip to the office or the ER, your only line of action is to try to comfort your baby from the burning pain of the unforgiving sun. It may seem like there’s not much to be done about baby sunburns, but there are a few things that can be done to help sooth that little body while the sunburn heals.
Treating baby sunburns
You are probably in for a few rough days and nights because of the sunburn, but think about what it feels like to be trapped in that little, sunburned body. They’re in pain and you want nothing more than to bring them some comfort, and you can. Here’s some things you might try:
- OTC infant Tylenol or Motrin: If your baby seems to be in too much pain, give the appropriate dose of an infant over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Continue offering fluids: Hydration is important all the time, but especially with a sunburn.
- Cool bath: Hot baths are way out of this question at this point, so be sure the water is cool, but not cold.
- Cool, wet compresses: This can bring some temporary relief from that horrible burning sensation.
- Aloe vera: All-natural, cheap, and soothing.
- Moisturize: Once the sunburn begins to peel, it may itch due to dryness so a bit of infant moisturizer can do the trick. Try to use only unscented moisturizer, if possible.
- Stay inside: Although the damage has already been done, it will feel best to just abstain from sunshine for a little while.
- DO NOT use products that contain benzocaine or lidocaine. These can cause allergy in some persons and make the burn worse.
Be sure to contact the pediatrician immediately if you notice increased redness, increased pain, swelling, drainage, or if your child starts to develop a fever as these are signs that an infection may be setting in.
Other than that, there’s nothing else that you can really do other than help your baby along during the healing and peeling process. Once the first couple of days have past, the pain from the sunburn should begin to subside without needing to use oral pain relievers. Although it seems horrible right now, this too shall pass and your baby will be back to normal before you know it!
Baby Sunburn Prevention
If your child has a sunburn, then please learn a very important lesson from this. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a million pounds of cure. Always use sunscreen! Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control for preventing sunburn in babies:
- Baby eyes are sensitive, ensure they wear sunglasses that block 99% of the sun’s radiation.
- Have your child wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Be under shade wherever possible.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA & UVB) sunscreen with a SPF rating of at least 15.
- Wear long sleeve, tight knit clothing wherever possible.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you ever have health-related questions, it’s always best to consult with a trained medical professional before deciding on a course of treatment.