Treating and Soothing a Toddler with a Sunburn

Sunburns are a horrible experience for anyone, but a toddler?  Cue the uncontrollable wailing, tossing and turning, painful itching, and questions like “WHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYY Mama?!” Yes, I know it is my fault as the parent that the sunburn happened.  We got carried away and didn’t reapply the sunscreen.  It was an ultra crappy mistake. Please tell me that it happens to every parent at some point in time? I thought I did great this weekend with the sunscreen, but apparently those expiration dates may be real.  I’m pretty sure our sunscreen expired 2 summers ago.  We used every drop of last year’s bottles and this year’s was just amazon prime’d to us today.  We threw caution to the wind and thought the old tubes would do for a weekend at the pool. WRONG.  Along with not applying frequently enough, and the expiration date issue, my fairest skinned toddler got a bit pinker than I ever like to see.  Now he wasn’t rolling around in agony, and I have seen FAR worse sunburns, but I still felt bad. I jumped on it before the sunburn could intensify with more sun the next day. (Yes, we went back to the pool the next day – and the next. Hello, it was a cold long winter up here.) Thanks to a wise natural-minded friend, and pinterest, a tea-bath soak was in order!  It pulled the redness and any stinging right out and he was ready to jump in the pool again on day 2!  Not only that, but he slept great and smelled lovely. Ha. This experience led me to writing this blog.  I can’t be the only crappy parent whose toddler got a sunburn this weekend!  So I turned on my research mode and went to work creating this list of sunburn remedies for kids.  I’m also including a few ways to soothe your tot if you missed the window of treating the sunburn and now you are just waiting it out in its last stages.  (Although, I would still try to remedy it before giving up!) A few things that I learned while researching:
  • A sunburn is the damage done to the skin from the UV rays of the sun
  • A toddler can be get a sunburn when exposed to the sun for only minutes, but the symptoms may not show up for up to 12 hours.
  • Mild sunburn causes redness, but can still be painful and interfere with comfort
  • Moderate sunburn causes redness, pain, itchiness, and peeling
  • Severe sunburn can cause fever, chills, blisters (do NOT pop the blisters!), headaches, vomiting, and other illness symptoms.  If pus accumulates around the burn, it can mean infection is happening.
Kids in swimming pool. Children swim outdoors. Toddler child during vacation in a tropical resort with palm trees. Little girl playing on a beach. Active kid in summer with colorful toy floating ring.  

Sunburn Treatments for Toddlers

Tea Bath:  This is now my go-to treatment.  I may actually just add the tea into the Epsom salt baths that my kids take after pool days just to cover my sunburn bases.  (FYI: Epsom Salt baths are AMAZING.  If you are not doing them for your little one, start now.) Fill a pitcher with warm water and steep a few black or green tea bags (the cheap kind) until the water is nice and dark.  Once it is cool (and dark), pour it into a lukewarm bath tub and stir it up.   Let your little one soak as long as possible, dipping wash cloths in the water and laying them on the areas that received the most sun. I actually skipped the pitcher step and just threw 4 tea bags into the warm tub and let it steep and get cool.  It was one less thing to clean and worked wonderfully! The key to this magic tea bath is to not dry your child off, but let them air dry so that the tea soaks into the skin.  Unless you let them play in the tub and had them soaking for a good 30 minutes, then pat them dry! Why Does a Tea Bath Work, You Ask?? The tannic acid and theobromine in tea works to draw out the heat from the burn.  Another compound of tea is catechin, and it actually repairs damaged skin. ACV and CO: The combination of a cool wet wash cloth splashed with raw apple cider vinegar placed on the skin will remove the sting.  Once the area is dry, rub an organic coconut oil generously all over it. Honey: Raw honey has been said to speed healing and reduce pain. Calendula - It has natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties that are especially beneficial for burns.  

Soothing Your Sunburned Toddler

Hydration:  Offer more breastmilk if nursing, water and water based foods (watermelon, cucumbers, popsicles, etc) to ensure adequate hydration levels are maintained. Yogurt:  In a pinch, grab a tub of yogurt from the fridge and slather the burned area.  Once it is warm (and gross) rinse it off with lukewarm water.  Repeat if needed. Luke Warm/Cool Bath: Adding baking soda and/or oatmeal into the tub will increase the soothing effect of the bath as well as rehydrate the skin.  Do not rub your toddler with a wash cloth or towel – instead, pat them dry, allowing the burned area to stay damp.  (A breastmilk bath will also help!) Moisturize: You can never go wrong with coconut oil.  Aloe Vera is normally the go to, as it cools and reduces pain, but make sure it is a high-quality product and not filled with chemicals. Other Ideas From Natural News:    iStock_000059571506_XXXLarge   Things you should NEVER do to a sunburned toddler
  • Putting ice or iced water on burnt skin; it can cause more damage.
  • Putting petroleum-based products such as Vaseline on burnt skin
  • Using an antiseptic first-aid product that contains benzocaine
  • Popping blisters, because this can expose skin to infection.
  • Cutting off dead skin.
  • Using a moisturizing or antiseptic product that contains alcohol
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