A quick guide to treating sunburn

This post is part of a series that focuses on children’s and women’s health, as part of a sponsored partnership with Aurora Health Care.Like most millennial parents, we are sunscreen maniacs with our kids. My kids have very fair skin that burns quickly and easily, so we have to be extra vigilant.

Sunscreen has now overtaken my home. I keep sunscreen in the diaper bag, in the front closet, in the back closet, and there are at least three loose ones rolling around the minivan. I have kid creams, sports creams, sprays and even sunscreen mousse!

But yesterday it happened.

We spent the entire day at a friend’s house on Big Cedar Lake. (Which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way, and how have I never been there?)

Like dutiful parents, we applied sunscreen mid-morning when we arrived, and again after lunch before the kids got back in the water.

But it was no match for the elements.

When we got home, I noticed my son’s cheeks and shoulders were red and warm. It wasn’t a horrible burn (like the ones I remember getting as a child), but it was definitely a burn.

So, what to do when your best plans fail and you’re left with a painful sunburn?

1. Keep burned skin out of the sun until healed.

Duh. But with kids, it takes extra effort to keep them indoors or in the shade when all they want to do is an outdoor activity in the sun. If you can’t keep them inside or shaded, protective clothing helps, too.

2. Cool down the skin.

Apply a cool, damp cloth on the burn or take a cool shower or bath. Then let the skin air dry and apply a moisturizer. You can repeat this cooling process every day until the sunburn gets better.

3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

The health experts at Aurora say that products with aloe vera or soy are good options, but you should avoid petroleum jelly or similar ointments because they trap heat in. You should also avoid products with benzocaine or lidocaine that can irritate skin.

4. Take a pain reliever.

Sunburns hurt, and sometimes really badly. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen can help.

You can also use over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointments to help reduce pain on the skin.

5. Stay hydrated.

Local Aurora dermatologist Dr. Mandi L. Maronn says that as burns heal, they pull fluid from the rest of your body. Because of this, it’s important to drink extra water. Children are especially at risk of becoming dehydrated.

6. Be gentle with the skin.

The skin needs extra TLC while it heals. To aid the process, avoid scented skin products, and remind your child not to pick, peel, or rub the burned area, especially if it’s blistered.


How do you treat a sunburn? Leave a comment below to help other parents.

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