CareNow® - July 14, 2022

mother applying sunscreen to her son's back

Warm days with lots of sunshine are what make summer great. Whether your family is spending the day at the pool or your little ones end up playing outdoors for longer than expected, it can be easy to get too much sun exposure.

According to research, between 55% and 72% of children get sunburn each year. Skin damage can be caused by as little as 15 minutes of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Unfortunately, sunburns during childhood increase the risk of melanoma later in life, so it’s essential to take the proper precautions when your child is out in the sun.

Does being hydrated prevent sunburn?

There are a lot of myths when it comes to sun safety, including the idea that drinking water can help prevent sunburn. This idea made its way around the internet after NFL quarterback Tom Brady claimed that staying hydrated helped keep him free of sunburn. 

However, experts have debunked this claim, emphasizing that the only real way to prevent sunburn is to avoid the sun during peak hours and protect yourself with clothing and sunscreen. Make sure your child is also aware of how to prevent sunburn.

Does Vitamin D prevent sunburn?

According to a recent study, participants who took high doses of vitamin D before going out into the sun experienced less severe symptoms than those who did not take the vitamin. Both swelling and inflammation were more minor for the group that took vitamin D.

The best way to ensure your child is getting enough vitamin D is through their diet. This vitamin can be found in cheese, eggs, and fatty fish. Coincidentally, your child can also get plenty of vitamin D from the sun; however, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not suggest that children undergo sun exposure for the purpose of getting vitamin D, as the risks outweigh the benefits. Sun exposure is the most natural source of vitamin D with the aim to get 10-30 minutes of midday sunlight a few times per week when possible.

What are the different types of sunscreen?

One of the best ways to protect your child from sunburn is by applying sunscreen generously. However, there are so many different sunscreens out there that it can be overwhelming to choose the one that’s right for your child.

What’s important to note is that there are two main types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens, which are typically less thick than physical ones, can use as many as a dozen ingredients and are absorbed into the outer layer of the skin.

Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, only contain two ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. This type of sunscreen isn’t absorbed into the skin — instead, it sits on top of the skin in order to reflect the rays from the sun.

How to find the sunscreen that’s right for your child

You may be wondering what the best sunscreen for a beach vacation or pool day is, and we’ve got you covered. It’s usually recommended that children wear physical sunscreen as the ingredients are usually safer and milder. Chemical sunscreens are best for those with darker skin as they are less chalky.

Always look for a sun protection factor(SPF) or 30 or higher and try to find a sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage so that it will protect your child’s skin against both UVA and UVB rays.

If your child is going to be in the water a lot, you may also want to look for a sunscreen that is water-resistant so it doesn’t wash off as easily.

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What is the best sunscreen for kids’ faces?

There are a number of great options when it comes to sunscreen for your child’s face. Ultimately, it depends on what your child prefers. Many parents opt for a stick sunscreen that is easy to apply without much mess. The most important thing is that you choose a physical sunscreen (versus a chemical sunscreen), which is safer for kids in general.

How long do sunburns last?

If your child has a moderate sunburn, you may notice the skin is swollen and warm to the touch. Normally, this type of sunburn lasts about a week.

For more severe sunburns, which are accompanied by very hot and red skin as well as blisters, the recovery time is closer to two weeks.

What helps sunburn?

If your child has gotten sunburned, they will most likely be uncomfortable, with a stinging feeling in their skin. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help relieve discomfort, including:

  • Give your child cool baths regularly while the burn is at its worst. To help trap the water in the skin and ease dryness, you will want to apply a moisturizer once they are out of the water and dry.
  • A topical moisturizer, aloe gel, or hydrocortisone cream can do wonders to help soothe sunburned skin. This type of cream can be purchased without a prescription and should be applied to areas that are particularly uncomfortable.
  • Have your child take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve any fever and discomfort. Always read and follow the directions on the container. Never give aspirin to a child.
  • Make sure your child stays out of the sun until their burn is fully healed. If your child has to be in the sun for any reason, dress them in layers of clothing to keep the skin from being exposed.
  • Try to get your child to drink plenty of fluids. This will help prevent dehydration and allow the skin to return to normal more quickly.

When to see a provider for sunburn

In most cases, sunburns will heal at home over time. However, there are certain situations where you should seek medical attention for a more severe burn.

For instance, if your child’s sunburn is accompanied by blisters and covers a good portion of their body, it’s a good idea to have a provider evaluate it. Additionally, if your child shows signs of fever, headache, confusion, nausea, chills, or dehydration, a visit to your provider or local urgent care is recommended.

It is possible for severely sunburned skin to get infected. If this occurs, you may notice swelling, pus, or red streaks around the blistered area. Skin infections should always be evaluated by a provider.

To get convenient care for your child’s sunburn, consider visiting your local CareNow® location. CareNow has more than 175 locations around the country, each open after hours and on the weekend. Plus, CareNow® offers a Web Check-In® feature so you can wait from anywhere and wait to be called to let you know when to head to a CareNow location!

When you choose CareNow®, you can rest easy knowing that you’re getting the best care around. We’ve earned the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry’s association, Urgent Care Association (UCA).

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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions, or deciding if medical advice is right for you.