Children are prone to develop sunburn especially when playing outdoors during the summer season. It is important to note that the skin contains melanin which is a pigment stored in special cells called melanocytes. Once the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, it leads to the production of more melanin which darkens the skin over time.
Fair-skinned children are highly sensitive to sunburn since the skin does not have enough melanin than dark-skinned ones. Nevertheless, even dark-skinned children are also at risk.
Even though being directly exposed to the sun triggers sunburn, a child can end up with one even if it is not a sunny day. One can develop sun damage if exposed to the reflection of the sun from water, snow, sand or buildings.
Sunburn can range from mild reddening of the skin or severe blistering, pain and swelling. As it heals, the blisters burst and the skin becomes dry and itchy until it starts to peel.
Most of the reactions start several hours after the skin was exposed to the sun. The skin condition is at its worst around 24-48 hours later. In the long run, damage caused by the sun puts one at higher risk for skin cancer. In addition, it leads to premature aging and wrinkling of the skin.
When to consult a doctor for sunburn
Bring a child with sunburn to a doctor for the following:
- There are blisters that break open or have murky fluid within
- Child has fever along with shivering or appears tired than usual
- Child has nausea and vomiting or a headache
- The pain could not be relieved
- Evident swelling in the site or the sunburn is likely to be infected
Management for sunburn
In severe cases of sunburn, it is managed in the same manner as any other burn and a doctor should be seen as soon as possible. You can also place the burned area under cool running water until help can be sought. Remember that young children are prone to dehydration which is why immediate medical care is needed.
If the child only has minimal redness and tenderness and there is warmth, you have to prevent additional UV exposure by keeping the child indoors. Pain medications can be provided to reduce the pain and swelling.
Encourage the child to increase the intake of fluids to replace the fluid loss by the burn. In addition, it is best to bathe the child gently in cool or tepid water.