Our children are too young to understand the importance of protecting their skin from sunlight, so we must take every precaution for them so they can play outside safely. Sometimes, even though we tried our best, they play so long outside that they may develop sunburn. We must be prepared to treat them adequately and be able to recognize the symptoms and complications.
What is sunburn?
According to Health Canada, « Sunburn (also known as erythema) is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. While the symptoms are usually temporary (such as red skin that is painful to the touch), skin damage is often permanent and can develop into serious long-term health effects, including skin cancer. Mild sunburn results in skin irritation and redness and can be safely treated at home. Severe sunburn requires medical attention. »
Recognizing the symptoms
To help heal sunburn quickly and to be able to assess its severity, you have to understand the symptoms. Here is a list of the observable symptoms:
- Redness or skin sensitivity to touch
- Blisters appearing within a few days
- Possibility of fever, chills, nausea or rash
- Peeling skin on burned areas
When to consult?
If you notice your child is developing blisters that are extremely painful, that his face has oedema or that his skin is discoloured and cold, you should consult a doctor so he can assess the severity of the situation. Here are other signs that indicate it’s time for you to seek the advice of a healthcare professional:
- Nausea, fever or chills
- Rapid pulse or breathing
- Headache, confusion, weakness or dizziness
- Signs of dehydration such as thirst, dry eyes and mouth or no urine output
- Signs of skin infection like increasing redness, pain, swelling or pus
- Eyes are painful or sensitive to light
Long-term adverse effects
Repeated exposure to the sun without protection can eventually lead to skin cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society tells us that most skin cancers develop on areas that are most often exposed to the sun such as the head, face, neck, hands and arms.
You should first remove your child from sun exposure and make sure they stay well hydrated in the days following the sunburn to avoid dehydration. If the sunburn is important, you can also have them relax in a bath of lukewarm water or apply cool compresses to lower their body temperature. Avoid applying creams or lotions that can trap body heat on the injuries such as local anaesthetics containing benzocaine or lidocaine. If your child is complaining of pain, you can administer mild analgesics such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.