Summer is here and the kids are spending lots of time outside in the sun. As a parent, you should know all of the sunburn safety basics: sunburn protection, how to choose a sunscreen and how to treat burns. 

Preventing sunburn

One of the most important tips for preventing sunburns is to remember that infants younger than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Here are more tips from the AAP: 

  • Dress yourself and your kids in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body, like lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats.
  • Select clothes made with a tight weave – they protect better than clothes with a looser weave. If you’re not sure how tight a fabric’s weave is, hold it up to see how much light shines through. The less light, the better.
  • Wear a hat or cap with a brim that faces forward to shield the face.
  • Limit your sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV rays are strongest.
  • Wear sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV protection (look for child-sized sunglasses with UV protection for your child).
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Set a good example. You can be the best teacher by practicing sun protection yourself. Teach all members of your family how to protect their skin and eyes.
  • Ask your physician if extra care is needed for sun exposure if your child is taking an antibiotic, anti-seizure medication or acne preparation.

Choosing a sunscreen

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, no sunscreen is fully waterproof, so parents should reapply often. 

  • Read the label – choose a sunscreen that is labeled “broad spectrum” to protect you and your family from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Buy a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Maintain caution on overcast days because UV rays can penetrate cloud cover.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours; more often if you are swimming or sweating.

Treating burns

Children can be burned from more than just the sun. Children’s National Health System’s Education Prevention Outreach Coordinator for the Division of Trauma and Burns, Sally Wilson, BS, RN shared a few burn prevention tips with us.

“I always tell parents to look after children who are crawling because they can become burned on their palms and knees if they cross a hot surface,” Wilson said.

Wilson also added to be cautious around playground equipment, as these surfaces tend to heat up quickly in the sun, and always suggests children wear shoes around this equipment. 

If your child does become sunburned, Wilson shared a few ways you can treat them. 

  • Remove child from the source.
  • Cool burn with cool wash cloth.
  • Dry with a clean cloth.
  • Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, if needed.
  • Give kids ibuprofen, or acetaminophen – doses designated by physician.
  • Don’t use ice, butter, Vaseline, toothpaste or perfumed lotions on the burned area.

Wilson said you can repeat this treatment through the course of a few days until the burn goes away, but if there are any blisters on the face, chest, hands, feet or genitals, you should seek medical treatment for your child immediately. 


Sally Wilson, RN, BSN, was the Education, Prevention, and Outreach Coordinator for the Division of Trauma and Burns at Children’s National.

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