How to Treat Sunburn in Children

A child’s skin is a lot thinner and more sensitive than an adult’s, allowing higher levels of UV (ultraviolet) rays to penetrate, leading to burning. Studies have shown that even one incidence of burning when young can increase the risk of skin cancer when older. There are two types of harmful UV rays.

UVB rays are the strong summer rays which penetrate the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, and stimulate the production of melanin, the brown pigment that gives us a tan. This pigment protects our body against harm, but when overworked, the skin burns. This can lead to skin cancer as well as attacking the skin’s suppleness. UVA rays are present throughout the year. They are more powerful than UVB rays as they penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers, down to the dermis, causing longer-term damage. These rays attack the skin’s fibres, causing dryness and possibly skin cancer.

What you can do

The best remedy for sunburn is to prevent it. No child should be in the sun long enough to allow them to burn and children under a year old should not be exposed to the summer sun at all. If your children are going out in the sun, especially if abroad, always apply a sunscreen that gives both UVA and UVB protection and avoid the hottest part of the day. Look for products that contain high sun protection factors (SPF), such as SPF15, and also look out for products that carry the star system, which gives the UVA protection factor. Four stars (****) give the highest protection.

Liberally apply any creams, oils or lotions before letting your child go into the sun, reapply hourly, always reapply after swimming and even when the sun’s heat lessens in late afternoon. Don’t forget sensitive areas such as the eyelids, ears, hps and nose. Make sure your children wear visor hats and t-shirts when they have had enough sun, and use a buggy parasol.


Herbal medicine

Aloe is used extensively in over-the-counter remedies for soothing the skin after sun exposure. But a herbalist would recommend the real thing – the leaves with their medicinal gel – applied directly to the burn, as this will be a lot more beneficial. Marigold may also be recommended as a useful anti-inflammatory, as can Myrrh. Fresh cucumber juice and dock leaves placed on the burn may also bring relief.


Belladonna may be recommended by a homoeopath as it works well for the pain and burning on the skin associated with sunburn. Apis may also be used if the burning is accompanied by fever.

Bach Flower Remedies

If the child is feeling sore and obviously in distress, Rescue Remedy cream should help with minor sunburn.


Look out for signs of heatstroke (caused by the body’s normal heat-regulating system malfunctioning) if your child has been exposed to a lot of sun, as it can be fatal. Symptoms of over­hearing include a raised temperature (up to 104°F or 40°C), hot, dry skin, lethargy and drowsiness, fast pulse, confusion. The child may also lose consciousness. Lie the child down in a cool place, check their pulse and temperature and cool the body down with tepid (not cold) water and fan them. Give plenty of fluids. Consult a doctor or take your child to casu­alty immediately if their temperature reaches 104°F, 40°C.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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