Toddler sunburn

Please could you advise on what I need to do should my baby accidentally get sunburned?   As a family, we are outdoors a lot and I want to be prepared.  

Important note if your child is younger than a year. Call the doctor, even if the sunburn appears mild. Sunburn in a child under age 1 can be more serious than it appears. The doctor will ask about your baby’s symptoms and possibly ask you to bring your baby in for an examination, to make sure he doesn’t need emergency treatment.

If your child is age 1 or older and his skin is just a little pink and tender, you probably don’t need to call the doctor. (See more details under “When to call the doctor,” below.) Just try to keep him as comfortable as possible until the burn heals, and follow these tips:

Do’s and don’ts for treating and soothing sunburn


    • Offer plenty of fluids: breast milk or formula if your child is a baby, water, and other liquids if he’s older. This helps the skin heal and replaces fluids lost by being out in the sun. 
    • Soak a clean, soft washcloth in cool water, wring it out, and gently place it on the sunburned area for  10-15 minutes a few times a day, making sure your child doesn’t get chilled. 
    • Try a cool bath. To make it more soothing, add baking soda or an oatmeal-based bath treatment (find at your local Clicks store).  Pat your child’s skin dry – don’t rub! 
    • Get down to her level. Sitting on the floor may help to even out the frustrating size difference between you and her.
    • Apply a water-based (alcohol-free) moisturising lotion or an aloe vera gel to relieve itching.  Itching can get worse if the burn starts to peel. 
    • If your child is in pain, you can probably give him the correct dose of children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the pain. If you have a baby younger than 12 months, ask the doctor when you call whether it’s okay to offer a pain reliever. (Ibuprofen is recommended for children 6 months and up.)   Never give your child aspirin. It can put him at risk for a sometimes fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome
    • Dress your child in loose clothing that won’t irritate the burned skin. 
    • Keep your child out of the sun until the burn has completely healed. It’s very easy for a child who’s already sunburned to get a second burn.


      • Don’t put petroleum-based products like petroleum jelly on your child’s skin. These prevent heat and sweat from escaping and can make a burn worse. The same goes for butter and oils.
      • Don’t use first-aid sprays or ointments that contain benzocaine. Benzocaine can irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction.
      • Don’t pop any blisters. Blisters form to protect your child’s underlying skin, and breaking them open can lead to infection. If they do break, apply an antibiotic ointment and a nonstick wound dressing. Don’t trim off the dead skin.

    Sunburn – when to call the doctor Call the doctor immediately if your baby under the age of one has a sunburn. If a child age 1 or older has a mild sunburn and his skin is just a little pink and tender, you don’t need to call the doctor. Note: You may not notice a sunburn right after you bring your child indoors. The redness and pain of a mild first-degree burn can take several hours to appear.

    Call the doctor if your child

      • starts to blister in the first 24 hours
      • has swelling on his hands or face
      • has signs of infection (pus or red streaks)
      • is running a fever or has chills
      • seems to be in extreme pain or just doesn’t feel well
      • has a headache
      • seems to be in extreme pain or just doesn’t feel well
      • vomits, feels lightheaded, or faints

    Why is heat-stroke-sunburn so serious?
    Sunburn is literally burned skin. Your child’s skin is very thin and very sensitive, so it can burn quickly. A sunburn might be a first-degree burn, which causes redness, mild swelling, and pain. A first-degree burn usually heals in 2-5 days. A second-degree burn is more serious. It’s more painful, with more swelling, redness, and blisters. A second-degree burn can last for a couple of weeks.

    If your child has spent too much time in the sun, he may also be at risk for heatstroke.

    What if my child’s skin starts peeling?
    Don’t be alarmed if the sunburned skin starts to peel. Peeling is a natural part of the healing process. It usually begins a few days after the sunburn happens.

    Is skin damage from the sun worth worrying about?

    A sunburn means that the skin has been damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and exposure to UV radiation from the sun is the number one cause of all types of skin cancers. Some studies suggest that severe sunburns during childhood cause melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – later in life.

    Because a child’s skin is more sensitive than adults’ skin, children are more prone to sunburn and skin damage. Ultraviolet radiation is dangerous for everyone, no matter what your baby’s skin colour. So don’t think you don’t have to worry if your baby has dark skin. However, moms should note that fair-haired, pale-skinned, freckled, and green- or blue-eyed children are most at risk.

    You have to be diligent. A child can get burned after only 10 – 15 minutes of exposure, even on a cloudy or cool day.

    Dress your child for outdoor activities in long sleeves, pants, and a hat, and apply sunscreen. Keep him in the shade as much as possible, although shade provides only partial protection against sunburn. And at the beach dress your child in a full sun-protective bathing suit, leaving just the lower arms and legs free.

    The sun is most dangerous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but the skin is exposed to UV rays during all daylight hours, year round, even when it’s cloudy.

    Put sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin. Choose a sunscreen with the highest SPF (sun protection factor) and spread it liberally about 15 to 30 minutes before you head outdoors, to give it a chance to be absorbed. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if your child is sweating a lot or has been in the water. +27 (0)81 885 4683

    *Important : The information provided is for information purposes only. No medical diagnosis or prescription can be inferred or is implied. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

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