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Care at Home

  • IBUPROFEN: * For pain relief, start ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) as soon as you can. * Give every 6-8 hours. (See Dose Table) * Reason: If started within 6 hours, it can greatly limit the pain and swelling. Must give for 2 days. * Caution: Not approved for age under 6 months.
  • STEROID CREAM: * Use 1% hydrocortisone cream as soon as possible. No prescription is needed. * Put it on 3 times per day. * If used early and continued for 2 days, it may reduce swelling and pain. * Use a moisturizing cream or aloe vera cream until you can get some. * Use creams only. Avoid putting ointments on red skin. Reason: They can block the sweat glands.
  • COOL BATHS: * Use cool wet washcloths to the burned area. Do this several times a day to reduce pain and burning. * For larger sunburns, give cool baths for 10 minutes. Caution: Avoid any chill. Can add 2 ounces (60 ml) baking soda per tub. * Do not use soap on the sunburn.
  • EXTRA FLUIDS: * Offer extra water on the first day. * This helps to replace the fluids lost into the sunburn. * This will also help to prevent dehydration and dizziness.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: * Pain stops after 2 or 3 days. * Peeling occurs day 5-7.
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * Pain becomes severe * Sunburn looks infected * Your child becomes worse
  • BLISTERS: * Caution: Leave closed blisters alone. Reason: To prevent infection. * For broken blisters, trim off the dead skin. Use a fine scissors cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
  • ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENT: * For any large open blisters, use an antibiotic ointment. An example is Polysporin. No prescription is needed. * Remove it with warm water. Then, reapply it 2 times a day for 3 days.
  • SUNSCREENS: * Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Fair-skinned children need a sunscreen with an SPF of 30. This is especially true if your child has red or blond hair. * Put sunscreen on 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. This gives it time to get down into the skin. Give special attention to the areas most likely to become sunburned. Examples are the nose, ears, cheeks, and shoulders. * Put sunscreen back on every 3 to 4 hours. Apply often while swimming or if sweating a lot. A 'waterproof' sunscreen stays on for about 30 minutes in water. * Most people use too little sunscreen. The average adult requires 1 ounce (30 ml) of sunscreen at a time. * The best way to prevent skin cancer is to prevent sunburns.
  • INFANTS AND SUNSCREENS: * The skin of infants is thinner than the skin of older children. It is more sensitive to the sun. * Sun avoidance is best for children under 6 months. Stay in the shade. * Sun avoidance or sun proof clothing are best for children 6 months to 3 years. That means clothes that fully cover the arms and legs. Also, have your child wear a hat with a brim. * When a sunscreen is needed, infants can use adult sunscreens. The FDA hasn't approved their use under 6 months old. However, the AAP supports their use at this age. There are no reported harmful side effects from today's sunscreens.
  • PROTECT LIPS, NOSE AND EYES: * To prevent sunburned lips, apply a lip coating that contains sunscreen. * If the nose or some other area has been burned often, protect it completely. Use zinc oxide or titanium oxide ointment. * Protect your child's eyes from the sun's rays and cataracts with good sunglasses.
  • HIGH-RISK CHILDREN: * Some children are at higher risk for sunburn. If your child has red or blond hair, he is at higher risk. Fair-skinned children and children who never tan are also at higher risk. * These children need to use a sunscreen even for brief exposures. * They should avoid sun exposure whenever possible.
  • TIME OF DAY: * Avoid exposure to the sun during the hours of 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. This is when the sun's rays are most intense. * Caution: When overcast, over 70% of the sun's rays still get through the clouds.
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Most sunburns do not blister. * Most blisters can be treated without needing to see a doctor. * Here is some care advice that should help.


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Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
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    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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