Sun poisoning, a severe variety of sunburn, can sneak up on you. Here’s how to identify and treat it.
While the summertime sun can certainly be inviting, it’s not without its dangers — including dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and, of course, sunburn. Sunburn is not only one of the most common consequences of spending too much time in the sun, but is also one of the most difficult to avoid. Whether you let time get away from you between applications of sunscreen or don’t realize that your child has sweat off the sunscreen they just put on, sunburn can easily take you — and your child — by surprise.
While every sunburn has the potential to cause lasting damage to your child’s skin, some sunburns are worse than others. Particularly severe burns often result in extremely painful blisters, and sometimes even flu-like symptoms. Sunburns of this severity are frequently called “sun poisoning.” Here’s how to tell if your child has sun poisoning, and what steps you should take if they do.
Identifying Sun Poisoning
Technically, “sun poisoning” isn’t a distinct medical condition. Rather, it’s a popular term that refers to the group of symptoms that appear as the result of a severe sunburn. Nevertheless, as a parent, it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of so-called sun poisoning, as sunburns of this severity can sometimes warrant medical attention.
Much like regular sunburns, cases of sun poisoning will begin with redness, blistering, and pain. But while most sunburns either fade away or begin to peel after a day or two, cases of sun poisoning may erupt into small blisters or an angry rash, or cause your child to experience headaches, fever, or nausea.
Relieving the Symptoms of Sun Poisoning
If your child has a case of sun poisoning, the best thing you can do is keep them out of the sun. Further, be sure to encourage your child to avoid touching their burn or blisters — while it may seem like a good idea to pop any blisters that are forming, doing so can be painful and lead to scarring.
Instead, generously apply aloe vera gel to the affected area to provide cooling relief. You can also place cool compresses on the burn, and encourage your child to take cool showers periodically. A gentle pain reliever like ibuprofen can help lessen your child’s discomfort, but be careful to only give your child the recommended dose for their age and weight.
It’s also important to note that sunburns can be dehydrating, which is why you should make sure your child drinks plenty of water as they’re recovering from their burn. Sports drinks with electrolytes are a good option, as well, especially because their appealing flavors may encourage your child to drink more fluids, faster.
If your child appears to be in substantial pain and the measures outlined above don’t seem to be helping — or if their burn covers a large portion of their body — it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a medical professional. Sun poisoning can be very painful and even lead to infection if left untreated.
If you believe that your child has sun poisoning, or if you’re not sure how to keep your child safe from the summer sun, make an appointment with Kids’ Health. Our expert pediatricians are dedicated to helping your child reach their best, both physically and emotionally. Contact us today.