What to Do for a Bad Sunburn on a Child

A bad sunburn on a child can cause blistering. Not only do bad sunburns predispose kids to elevated risks of skin cancer, they also are painful. Although few treatment methods offer immediate relief from skin irritation and burning, several remedies can relieve the intensity and duration of symptoms.

Cool Bath

Giving your child a cool bath takes the sting out of sunburns. To enhance the healing properties of a cool bath, adding oatmeal-containing products such as Aveeno to the bathwater helps relieve itching, according to the Outreach Teaching Program of St. Louis University and Washington University Medical Schools. Furthermore, avoid giving your child a shower because the force of the water exacerbates the pain.

Moisturizers and Hydrocortisone

Applying a mild moisturizer helps keep sunburned skin from further drying out and becoming irritated. Furthermore, according to medical experts at Seattle's Children Hospital, applying a 1 percent hydrocortisone topical preparation is often effective in treating mild sunburn 3.


Not only does a bad sunburn irritate the skin, if it's bad enough, it can also cause:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • nausea

To reduce these symptoms, give your child an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen, which helps relieve sunburn pain while relieving systemic problems. Although aspirin is an effective pain reliever, it should never be given to children. According to the National Reye's Syndrome Foundation, a link exists between childhood consumption of aspirin and the risk of Reye's syndrome, a serious neurological condition that can cause paralysis and even death 2.

Antibiotic Cream

When blisters form in response to a sunburn, they should not be intentionally broken to drain the fluid out. According to the Mayo Clinic, breaking the protective skin covering of a blister decreases the healing process and can promote infection. If the blister break spontaneously, apply a topical antibiotic ointment.

When to See a Doctor

If your child has a fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, acts very ill or experiences light sensitivity, call your doctor. Furthermore, if the sunburn is increasingly tender to the touch, has red streaks, or has a purulent drainage, call your doctor, warns physicians at Seattle's Children Hospital 3. They also warn that the presence of facial blisters or swelling of the lower extremities also warrants medical intervention as well.