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We all love to enjoy a little sunshine. There’s nothing better than spending a gorgeous, sunny day outside with your baby. Too much exposure to direct sunlight, however, can have serious health consequences. In particular, you’ll need to be mindful of your baby developing a sunburn, a condition that can appear in as little as 20 minutes.

So what’s a concerned parent to do? In this post, the baby experts at Mustela will tell you everything you need to know about baby sunburn. We’ll start by explaining exactly what sunburn is. Then we’ll tell you how to best prevent it and give you 10 easy tips for treating your baby’s sunburn.

happy baby with sun hat at the beach

What Exactly Is Sunburn?

We’re all familiar with sunburn. It’s the red, itchy, dry skin that results from too much time in the sun. In many cases, sunburn may burn the top layer of skin so severely that it peels off. But how does the sun cause such serious harm to our skin?

The sun gives off a number of different forms of light that reach the Earth: ultraviolet (UV) rays, visible light, and infrared radiation. While UV rays represent only a small fraction of the solar energy we receive, they have a major impact on your baby’s skin. Ultraviolet radiation can be divided into three categories, depending on its wavelength:

  • UVA rays, which have the longest wavelengths, are responsible for skin aging and wrinkles because they penetrate deeply into skin tissue and cause damage.
  • UVB rays, which have a medium wavelength, are the rays primarily responsible for sunburn. They also increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • UVC rays, which have the shortest wavelengths, are the most harmful. Fortunately, these rays do not reach the Earth’s surface because they are blocked by the atmosphere.

As our skin soaks up the sun, UV rays injure skin cells. The damaged cells then release toxins, which causes pain and discomfort. Extra blood flows to the capillaries in the affected area, giving sunburn its signature pink and red hue.

While everyone is susceptible to sunburn, children are especially vulnerable to the risks of UV rays. This is because your baby’s skin is thin and delicate. Research has shown that serious sunburns, especially when they occur at a young age, may have health consequences later in life. The effects include an increased risk of serious diseases like melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. That’s why sunburn prevention is so important for your baby.

mother and baby walking in the sand

How Can I Prevent My Baby From Getting Sunburn?

It’s an old sports adage that “the best defense is a good offense.” As such, the best way to treat your baby’s sunburn is to stop it from happening to begin with! Follow these three simple steps to prevent your baby’s skin from getting burned by the sun.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

The first and most crucial step in baby sunburn prevention is avoiding too much time in direct sunlight. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of sunlight and completely avoid taking your little one outside on sunny days. Just be sure to limit the amount of time your baby spends in direct sunshine.

Try to find shady places to enjoy the outdoors. Also, the sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., so be extra careful during those hours.

Cover Up

The second best way to prevent your baby from getting a sunburn is to simply cover up their skin. Clothing is a great shield because it blocks almost all of the sun’s UV rays. It might seem a bit strange to dress your baby in pants and a long-sleeved shirt when it’s warm out, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Plus, you can still keep your baby comfortable in the heat by dressing them in loose, breathable, light-colored clothing. Hats and sunglasses are also essential for keeping your baby protected from the sun.

baby playing in the shade with protective sunglasses and hat

Apply Sunscreen

The third and final step to preventing baby sunburn is to use a baby-friendly sunscreen. Because it’s not realistic to completely avoid sunlight or cover up every inch of your baby’s skin, we recommend applying a healthy layer of sunscreen in most situations.

It’s vital that we talk a little bit about which sunscreens are safe to use with young children. Many sunscreens can actually harm you because they contain chemicals that can seep into your baby’s bloodstream. To avoid this safety hazard altogether, we recommend using a mineral-based sunscreen, like Mustela's gentle and effective SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion. These types of sunscreen use minerals to form a protective layer on your baby’s skin.

10 Easy Ways To Treat Baby Sunburn

In a perfect world, no baby would ever get sunburned. But we all know that accidents happen, and sometimes, children get a bit too much sun.

Although sunburn is common and usually not serious, severe sunburns may require a trip to the doctor’s office. If your child has any of the following symptoms, take them to your pediatrician as soon as possible.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

If your baby is a little pink but doesn’t have any of these serious warning signs, then you’ll want to care for your loved one at home. Here are 10 simple steps you can take to treat baby sunburn.

mother and baby relaxing in the sun

1. Keep Your Baby Out Of The Sun

This first tip might seem obvious, but it’s so important that we felt the need to re-emphasize. If your baby has even the slightest amount of sunburn, keep them out of the sun for a few days. It might not look like a serious burn, but any additional UV rays can quickly turn a mild burn into a severe one.

2. Give Your Baby A Cool Bath

Nothing soothes sunburn like a nice, cool bath. For additional soothing power, add oatmeal or baking soda to your little one’s bathwater. The bath will not only make your baby’s sunburn feel better, but it will also allow them to take their mind off the discomfort for a while.

3. Apply A Baby-Safe Cream

one of the best ways to avoid baby sunburn is using sunblock

Applying a gentle, baby-safe cream can soothe your baby’s skin and help heal their sunburn. Try an After Sun Spray with avocado fruit extract and jojoba seed oil to give your baby maximum relief.

4. Avoid Popping Or Breaking Any Blisters That May Appear

In more serious cases of sunburn, your baby’s skin may form small blisters. It’s best to leave these blisters alone, as popping them increases the chance of a bacterial infection. If a blister happens to pop accidentally, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage.

5. Place A Cloth Soaked In Cold Water On The Sunburn

This simple treatment can work wonders for sunburn. All you need to do is soak a soft cloth in cold water for a few minutes, quickly wring it out, and let it sit on your baby’s sunburn. The cool, wet cloth will provide instant relief and allow your little one to relax.

baby playing on a towel at the beach

6. Give Your Baby Extra Fluids

After developing a sunburn, your baby is probably a bit dehydrated. To solve this problem, simply give your baby extra fluids for several days. These extra fluids will keep your baby’s body in tip-top shape so it can naturally heal its sun-damaged skin.

7. Avoid Using Ice And Water As Treatment

While a cool bath and cloths soaked in cold water are OK, you shouldn’t use ice or ice water to treat your baby’s sunburn. In fact, ice and ice water can make a sunburn hurt more. Your baby’s skin is delicate and easily-irritated, so putting freezing-cold ice on top of a sunburn is not helpful.

8. Administer A Small Dose Of Ibuprofen Or Acetaminophen

For older babies, a small dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve pain and reduce swelling caused by the sunburn. Generally, ibuprofen is recommended for children six months or older. Acetaminophen is similar but can sometimes be approved for younger babies. As always, it’s best to check with your doctor before giving your little one any medicine.

9. Use Gentle Cleansers On Your Baby’s Skin

baby sitting on counter after bath

When bathing your baby, always observe good washing habits and use gentle cleansers rather than harsh soaps. Mustela’s Soothing Cleansing Gel and Gentle Cleansing Gel are both effective options for your baby’s delicate skin.

10. Give Your Baby Lots Of Extra TLC!

This might not directly heal your baby’s sunburn, but it will certainly make your little one feel better! There’s no remedy quite like extra hugs and kisses from mom and dad.

You should always take precautions to protect your baby from the sun, but there will probably come a time when your little one has too much fun outside. When that day comes, all you need to do is follow the 10 easy tips we’ve shared above and your baby’s sunburn will disappear before you know it.

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