Sunburn in Babies: Signs, Treatment and Prevention

Sunburn in Babies – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

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Dr. Rashmi Sriram (Dermatologist)
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Is your baby the outdoorsy type? If she loves running about outdoors during the day, there is a chance she could have a sunburn without the right precautions. Learn about the symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures that can be taken to avoid sunburn in children.

Video : Easy Tips & Precautions for Baby Sunburn

What is Sunburn?

Sunburn is a condition in which the skin, when overexposed to Ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB rays), becomes red or reddish in colour, warm, feels tender and sore. In a few days time, the skin in the sunburnt area becomes flaky and peels off.

What Are the Signs of Baby Sunburn?

After a day out in the sun, look out for the following signs in your baby.

  • Considerable burns
  • Skin blisters
  • 3-degree fever or more
  • Severe headaches
  • Excess sweat
  • Dizzy and lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Cranky baby
  • Dehydration
  • Pus in the blisters/sores
  • Vomiting

Should You Be Worried About Baby Skin Damage From the Sun?

Babies before the age of 6 months are at a high risk of skin damage when exposed to the sun. During infancy, the melanin in the skin hasn’t yet developed. Therefore, exposure to direct sunlight during infancy ups the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.

How to Treat and Soothe Infant Sunburn

Here are a number of ways to treat and give your baby sunburn relief.

  • If your baby is less than 6 months of age, breastfeed more than usual. However, in the case of older kids, you can give lots of water or fresh fruit juice to drink.
  • Keep a cool wet cotton cloth on the affected area for some time. Repeat after some time.
  • You can also apply some cucumber pieces or grated cucumber on the affected area.
  • Applying aloe vera can also help.
  • Give her a cool bath. However, do not rub your baby’s skin. Instead, just pat it dry.
  • Make her wear only cotton and loose-fitting clothes.
  • Keep your baby away from the sun as much as possible, at least until the time her skin is not properly healed.

Things You Should Avoid Doing With Sunburned Baby

Certain things should be avoided in case you have a sunburned baby at hand. Here is a list of “not to do” things.

  • Avoid popping the blisters. Doing so could be painful and could cause a sore on the affected area.
  • Do not scratch or peel the skin when it starts to heal. Let the skin peel off naturally.
  • Avoid using any petroleum-based or alcohol-based products on the affected area.
  • Avoid all types of sprays and ointments on the skin, particularly on the affected part.
  • Consult a dermatologist in severe case, as home remedies may further aggravate the condition in a few babies.

Natural Soothers for the Sunburned Skin of a Baby

There are many natural sunburn relief for babies some of which are listed below.

1. Tea

The tannins and antioxidants in freshly brewed green and black tea absorb the heat caused by sunburn.

How to apply it:

  • Let the brewed tea cool down to room temperature.
  • Once it cools down, take a cotton washcloth or a small ball of cotton and apply it to the affected areas. Then, rinse the affected area with cool water. You can also apply a tea bag on the affected area or pour some freshly brewed tea into cool bath water before giving your child a bath with it.

2. Oatmeal

Oats is rich in antioxidants and said to have anti-inflammatory properties.

How to apply it:

  • Add finely ground oatmeal to bathwater and let your baby sit in it for some time.
  • Then, rinse her with cool water and pat dry.
  • You can also make a paste of finely ground oatmeal, honey, and milk, and apply it to the affected area. After some time, rinse it off with cool water.

3. Lavender and Coconut oil

Coconut oil, which has microbial properties, heals the sunburn and the lauric acid in it helps cell growth. Lavender oil, on the other hand, has a soothing effect on the skin.

How to apply it:

  • Using a cotton ball to apply the mix to the affected area. You can also add it to your baby’s bathwater.

4. Honey

It can work like an antibiotic and speed up the healing process.

How to apply it:

  • Using a wet cotton ball, apply honey to the affected areas.
  • Honey can also be mixed with other household ingredients like oatmeal and applied to the sunburn.

5. Milk

The proteins in the milk soothe the burn and moisturise the skin.

Milk in a bowl

How to apply it:

  • Mix one cup milk with 3 parts cool water.
  • Put a cotton cloth in it and then squeeze the cloth.
  • Then, apply the cold, wet towel on the affected area (you can also add ice but, for small children, it is best avoided).

6. Tomato

Tomatoes are great antioxidants and help in removing dead skin cells and fighting cell damage.

How to apply it:

  • Make a puree of the tomatoes.
  • Then using a clean towel, apply the tomato juice to the affected area.

7. Cornflour

It is an age-old remedy for all types of skin rash.

How to apply it:

  • Make a paste of cornflour using water.
  • Apply it on all the affected areas and rinse it off after some time.
  • In case of a sunburnt back, sprinkle some cornflour on the area when the skin is damp and apply it using a sponge or a powder puff.

8. Aloe Vera

The cooling effect of aloe vera pulp gives relief from the pain and also heals the burn.

How to apply it:

  • Squeeze out the pulp of the aloe vera plant.
  • Then, apply the pulp on the affected area.

9. Potato

Like aloe vera and cucumber, potatoes too have a cooling effect on the skin.

How to apply it:

  • Grate a potato and apply it on the sunburn.

10. Cucumber

Mom puts sunscreen on her baby

The antioxidant and analgesic component of cucumbers is a quick healer. So, you can use cucumber to treat sunburn.

How to apply it:

  • Slice up or grate a chilled cucumber.
  • Apply it to the affected area.

How to Prevent Sunburn in Infants

Sunburn in infants should be avoided in every way possible. Some of the measures to prevent sunburn in newborns are –

  • There should be removable mesh window shields to avoid direct sunlight into the room.
  • Walks with your infants should be taken either early in the morning before the sun is high up or just before sunset or after sunset.
  • Your baby’s hands and legs should be covered with light cotton clothes.
  • A wide-brimmed hat can do wonders in protecting the face of your child from the sun.
  • In case of babies above 6 months of age, you can apply sunburn cream for babies just 30 minutes before going out.
  • As much as possible make her play in a shaded area between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Make sure your child wears UV protected sunglasses when out in the sun.

When to Consult a Doctor

A newborn with sunburn can be agonising for parents. Therefore a cream to prevent sunburn in babies is the best way to avoid it. However, sunburn on the baby’s face is the most common of all, since the face is the portion of a baby’s body which is mostly exposed to the sun.

Look out for these symptoms in case your baby has a sunburn.

  • Blisters on the body.
  • Your baby has a high fever, headache, pain, dehydration, along with nausea and chills.
  • The blisters or sore caused by the sunburn have pus in them indicating an infection.

A baby having sunburn on the face or body is not life-threatening. However, the repercussions that a child has to face due to it can be painful and agonizing. Therefore, it is best avoided. Take the right precautions to ensure your child can safely play outdoors, minimising the risk of sunburn.

Also Read: Taking Care of Newborn in Summer

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.