How to Handle Sunburn
Sunburn can happen within 15 minutes of being in the sun, but the redness and discomfort may not be noticed for a few hours. Repeated sunburns can lead to skin cancer. Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for kids who have moles or freckles, very fair skin and hair, or a family history of skin cancer.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Sunburns?
- skin redness and warmth
What Should I Do if My Child Gets Sunburned?
- Have your child get out of the sun right away.
- Have your child take a cool (not cold) shower or bath, or apply cool compresses as often as needed.
- Give extra liquids for the next 2 to 3 days.
- Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed, if needed, to relieve pain.
- Use moisturizing creams or aloe gel to provide comfort.
- When going outside, all sunburned areas should be fully covered to protect the skin from the sun until healed.
Get Emergency Medical Care if:
- a sunburn causes blisters or is extremely painful
- your child has facial swelling from a sunburn
- a sunburn covers a large area
- your child has fever or chills after getting sunburned
- your child has a headache, confusion, or a feeling of faintness
- you see signs of dehydration (increased thirst, less pee, or dry eyes and mouth)
What Can Help Prevent Sunburn?
- Avoid summer sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Have kids wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and a hat.
- Apply sunscreen that provides UVB and UVA protection with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and 30 minutes after exposure begins, then reapply after kids have been swimming or sweating.
- Although the best way to protect babies 6 months of age or younger is to keep them shaded, you can use small amounts of sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 30) on small exposed areas, like the face.
Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: June 2022
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.