Family Health Guide

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First Aid: Sunburn

If the skin is red but not blistered, it's a first-degree burn. Here's how to ease the sting:

Apply a cool compress You can use a washcloth or grab a small carton of cold milk or juice  and hold it to the skin for fast relief.

Soak in a tepid bath Add a 1/4 cup each of baking soda and cornstarch to the water, or a cup of oatmeal, and let him soak for as long as he wants. (A lukewarm bath is best for the skin, but if the sunburn is very sore, cooler water may be more comfortable.) As soon as he gets out of the tub, gently blot (don't rub!) his skin with a towel -- but don't dry it completely. Dress your child in loose-fitting PJs.

Apply aloe vera If you have an aloe-vera plant (over-the-counter aloe-vera gel is fine too), squeeze a small amount of it on your finger, and spread it gently over his sunburned skin.

Added relief If the pain persists, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help. Redness should peel and fade within a few weeks.

Call the doctor If the skin blisters, it's a sign that the sunburn is second-degree and needs immediate medical attention to prevent infection. Don't be tempted to pop the blisters! The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream. Once the blisters open on their own, keep the area covered -- usually with cream and non-adherent gauze and a bit of medical tape (try to leave a little breathing room.

The next time It goes without saying: when your child is out in the sun again remember that any spot of skin not covered by clothing, a hat, sunglasses, or sunscreen -- preferably with UCB and UFA protection and with an SPF of 30 -- can burn. Also, skin covered by lightweight or gauzy material is still susceptible, so sunscreen underneath is a must. Reapply it every two hours and don’t use sunscreen that is over a year old.  Minimize your child’s exposure to the sun between 10 am and 4 pm.