Summer, Water, and Sunburn

Red cheeks and noticeable tan lines are synonymous with children spending the days in the summer sun.   It could be an hour watching the little ones play in the toddler pool, or enjoying the day at lake or poolside. Even on intermittent sunny days, the strength of the sun and the reflection upon the water may provide a deeper coloring of skin tone on your child than you expected. As parents, we might think suntan lotion will endure or is not needed for such short periods outside; yet, the following necessary facts should be noted to help protect children from that reddened pinch named “sunburn.”


With an overwhelming selection of sunscreens available, this summer you can chose the right one with confidence.

  • A 30 or higher Sun Protection Factor, SPF, will prevent sunburn and tanning. (Higher SPFs require fewer applications.)
  • To protect against ultraviolet short (UVA) and long (UVB) waves, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
  • Water-resistant sunscreens only last up to 80 minutes; therefore, sunscreen will need to be reapplied once a child comes out of the water.
  • Sprays are purchased for convenience; yet, some are flammable and can cause sparks or flames. To ensure the sunscreen is evenly applied, creams are the best option.
  • For those with sensitive skin or allergies, avoid the ingredients PABA and titanium dioxide.

The perfect time to apply sunscreen is 15 minutes before your child goes outside, and remember the sun’s rays are the most damaging between 12 and 3:00 p.m.; therefore, begin by applying sunscreen to the face before moving down the body. The most prone areas to sunburn are the ears, neck, hands, feet, and especially underneath the straps or band of the swim suit. After two hours of body sweat and swimming, it is recommended that suntan lotion be reapplied. (A great opportunity to ask your child to hydrate by drinking water.) Lastly, don’t forget to throw away expired suntan lotion bottles, or ones that are older than three years.

Preventing First-Degree Sunburn

“Mommy, I feel itchy, and my skin hurts,” is the first indication that a child’s reddened skin may have reached the epidermal layer, and is likely to be a first-degree sunburn. Fortunately, the top layer of skin constantly regenerates to heal burned skin across three to five days. From our own personal experiences, we know the feeling of sunburn is both uncomfortable and painful; therefore, the best remedies are to allow your child to soak for 20 minutes in a cool bath to ease the burning sensation. Afterward, apply Aloe Vera gel with a cotton ball to reddened areas. (While cooling the skin, the gel will help stimulate the regeneration of skin cells. If lavender and peppermint oil is available, apply one drop to the bath water or to the Aloe Vera gel to encourage relaxation, sleep, as well as to promote a feeling of coolness.)

Two warnings:

  • Do not use ice packs. The effect can damage the skin.
  • Butter, which can contain heat and inflame the burn, is not recommended.

Enjoying the coolness of water with family and friends is a pastime of summer; yet, sunburn can occur within 15 minutes of being in the sun. It may take a few hours to detect the redness, or for a child to feel discomfort. Moms who want to pack everything should have have chilled water bottles to maintain hydration levels, an umbrella for extra shade, long-sleeved cotton shirts, a wide-brimmed hat, and shoes which shield the feet from the sun’s strengthened rays. While the enjoyment is often found in the sunshine, there are times when building sandcastles or reading a good book in the shade can be just as enjoyable.