Sunburn just kind of sneaks up on you, especially with babies and toddlers. You’re enjoying the perfect day at the park, dozing off to the cool breeze and partly cloudy skies, when you notice that your baby is suddenly lobster red.
If your baby is suddenly afflicted with a nasty case of sunburn, don’t be too hard on yourself. Babies and toddlers can burn with just 15 minutes of exposure, even on a cloudy day.
Now that it has happened, it’s important to treat the burn quickly and effectively to prevent unnecessary discomfort and scarring.
Today we’re going to talk about the best sunburn relief for babies and toddlers you can use. These products and natural remedies are safe, effective, and will have your baby’s skin back to its silky-smooth self in no time!
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Treating a Sunburn in Babies and Toddlers: What it Is, Prevention, and Best Remedies
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. I only recommend what I trust. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
What is Sunburn and How Damaging is it to Your Baby?
We’ve all suffered from sunburn at some point in our lives. Whether from a long, fun day at the beach or a little too long on the tanning bed, sunburn has become a natural part of our lives. So, it’s easy to dismiss how damaging it actually is.
A “sunburn” is actually a form of radiation damage. Your cherry-red skin is an inflammatory response to dead or dying skin caused by this radiation damage. And that annoying peeling we’ve all had to deal with after a particularly bad sunburn?
That’s the result of DNA damage in our skin cells. Our body recognizes that damage and evicts that skin cell rather than allowing it to turn into a cancerous cell later down the road.
How to Tell If Your Baby is Sunburned
We’ve spent twenty something years withstanding the rays from the sun. Babies, not so much. A baby’s response to sunburn can be very dramatic.
These short-term side effects of a sunburn will most likely surface within the first 6-12 hours of damage:
- Blisters (A sign of 2nd degree burn)
- Light fever
In just a minute, we’re going to focus on the best sunburn relief for babies and toddlers. Having said that, there are some long-term side-effects that you should really be aware of.
On the lesser scale, the sun blisters your baby develops from a severe sunburn could become infected and cause scars. More alarmingly, researchers have also found that sunburn also can increase your baby’s chance of developing melanoma later in life.
How to Prevent Sunburn in Babies and Toddlers
If you weren’t on the anti-sunburn bandwagon before, I’m sure you are now! There’s good news, though: there are so many things you can do to prevent sunburn next time. So, before we get into sunburn relief for babies and toddlers, let’s take a brief look at some prevention strategies.
Limit Exposure to Sun
Babies 6 months and younger are most susceptible to the short-term and long-term ailments I mentioned above. If you have a newborn, don’t even mess with sunblock; just keep him out of the sun! The sun is most dangerous between 10AM to 4PM. During that time, keep your baby in a shaded area, away from harmful rays.
Use a Mineral-based Sunblock
After 6 months, you’re free to use sunblock.
Most experts recommend using a sunblock with at least 15 SPF. Personally, I use a mineral-based sunblock with 50 SPF.
Mineral-based sunblocks ensure that your baby’s skin won’t become irritated by harsh chemicals. You can find mineral-based sunblocks at your local box store pretty easily; They usually advertise active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Having said that, I prefer to buy mine on Amazon because it’s usually more cost-efficient.
We love the Aveeno Baby sunblock. The active ingredient is zinc oxide and my daughter has never had a reaction from it. My only complaint is that it’s so thick that sometimes it’s hard to spread. But honestly, the protection is worth it!
(EDIT: Aveeno sells a sunblock stick now!!)
Use a Sun Hat
A sunhat serves a dual purpose: it blocks harmful UV rays to your baby’s fair scalp (which I’m assuming does not have sunblock on it) and it protects your baby’s eyes. When choosing a sunhat, make sure that’s it has a wide brim and it’s made out of a light-weight material.
If you’re planning an epic day at the beach, it might be time to invest in a baby tent or umbrella.
I especially love baby tents. They’re perfect for unexpected nursing sessions, a private area for your baby to play, or an impromptu nap.
Beach umbrellas also work in a pinch as well. Anything to protect your baby from direct sunlight!
Just like your baby’s skin, his eyes are extremely susceptible to UV damage as well. Over time, UV damage can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration. So, buying a pair of ridiculously cute sunglasses should be on your todo list this summer.
Ideally, you’ll want to find a pair that is shatterproof and offers at least 400nm of UV blockage (or 100% UVA/UVB protection). There are plenty of excellent sunglasses on Amazon that meet these requirements!
8 Effective Products for Sunburn Relief for Babies and Toddlers
Now that you know how to prepare for your next beach excursion, it’s time to treat the problem at hand: your baby’s painful sunburn.
When you’re trying baby sunburn remedies, you’re focusing on three things: hydration, soothing his inflammatory response, and healing his damage.
Now, before we get into these topical remedies, let me share this disclaimer: these are natural remedies. As with any natural, topical remedy, you can never predict how it might affect your child. Please ALWAYS check with your pediatrician before using any remedies (especially stuff like essential oils, apple cider vinegar, honey, etc.) and do a patch test beforehand.
Cool or Tepid Water
Water can be an effective sunburn relief for babies and toddlers if used correctly. First, make sure the water is actually cool or tepid. Too hot or too cold will sting. Ice in particular can cause further damage to his wounds.
Second, you can either use a compress or wet rag, or give your baby a cool bath. Both are effective and can ease some of your baby’s discomfort.
Aloe Vera gel should be one of the remedies that’s always in your cabinet. You’ll use aloe vera gel for burns, bites, stretch marks, and everything in between. According to multiple studies, aloe vera contains anti-inflammatory properties that make it a great option for baby and toddler sunburn relief.
For the most effective baby sunburn treatment, make sure you apply chilled pure aloe vera gel directly to the burn.
I love tea baths because it soothes, heals, and hydrates. It’s the perfect way to calm your baby before bed to ensure a full night of sleep.
Chamomile and calendula are both excellent choices for a tea bath. Chamomile reduces stress while calendula is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Treating sunburn in babies and toddlers should be done with care, since each baby’s skin sensitivities vary. Check with your pediatrician before putting your baby into a tea bath. He’ll be able to tell you if and how many tea bags are appropriate.
Typically though, you would to start out brewing 2-3 tea bags and then pouring that mixture into your baby’s bath water. To avoid further skin irritation, make sure you perform a skin-test beforehand and use tepid water.
Much like aloe vera, coconut oil is one of those cure-all natural remedies that every mom needs in her cabinet.
Coconut oil provides a triple whammy as a baby sunburn remedy: the fatty acids in coconut oil will hydrate your baby’s skin, fight harmful microorganisms (which promotes healing), and soothes inflammatory responses.
To use coconut oil on your baby, simply hold a small dab in your hands to turn it in to liquid form (you don’t want the oil to get any warmer than that because it could feel uncomfortable to baby). After a cool compress or water, apply the oil directly to the sunburn.
Some essential oils have healing and soothing properties. The best essential oils for sunburn are:
- Tea Tree Oil
Lavender is generally considered safe for topical use on babies 6 months and older. Be sure that you dilute the lavender with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) and try a patch test before use.
If you’re looking for a good recipe, I just created an aloe vera healing gel with my Bumps & Booboos blend from Simply Earth. My toddler loves using it on all of her cuts and scrapes!
RELATED POST: Essential Oils for Cuts and Burns: How to Make Your DIY Wound Healing Remedies with the Simply Earth June Recipe Box
Honey is also well-known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Your wiggly toddler probably won’t appreciate it if you try to apply sticky goo directly to his arm (or maybe he will, who knows with toddlers!), so try dissolving a tablespoon in warm water and apply it once it cools.
Just note that honey is strictly for toddler sunburn relief. Not babies!
There’s a slight chance that your honey might contain a bacterium called, clostridium botulinum. If your baby happens to ingest this bacterium, it can cause some serious food poisoning. After 12 months, your little toddler should be safe from the bacterium’s negative side-effects.
SHORT ON TIME? PIN IT FOR LATER!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is responsible for helping several infant afflictions, such as reflux, eczema, and baby acne. It’s even known for boosting your baby’s immune system. For sunburns, it works as both an anti-fungal and antiseptic.
I love using apple cider vinegar because it can be an incredibly sneaky way to soothe sunburn in babies. Just add a couple tablespoons to your baby’s bath water and watch him play (once again, double-check with your pediatrician for exact quantities and perform a skin test beforehand).
Your little one will most likely experience some itchy discomfort.
If you have a baby, you don’t have to worry about him scratching himself raw like a toddler might, but this itchiness can still cause nighttime sleep disruptions.
Before turning to antihistamines, try natural, topical anti-itch creams. Try to look for ingredients like “calendula” and “colloidal oatmeal.” Calendula is commonly found in natural diaper lotions and creams. Colloidal oatmeal is a natural ingredient commonly used to treat eczema.
If you still have your baby’s eczema cream handy, that could be a great baby and toddler sunburn relief. Otherwise, Aveeno Baby sells a paraben and steroid-free baby bath powder that works great!
Your baby’s skin will be very, very sensitive for the next couple days. Rough and heavy material will only exasperate his burns. Make sure that his jammies are lightweight, or something he won’t sweat in.
Lots of fluid
Your baby will need a lot of liquids while he’s sunburned. A sunburned baby will not retain liquids nearly as well. Not only will liquids ensure hydration, but it’s essential for healing.
For younger babies, try to add an additional nursing session or feeding to your day. If your baby is over six months (and drinking water), try giving him water in addition to his regular milk intake.
What Not to Do for Baby and Toddler Sunburn Relief
Keep your little guy out of the sun until his burn heals. Right now, the additional heat and UV rays will make him feel very uncomfortable and could do more damage. You should also avoid hot or cold baths and ice.
If your baby’s blisters pop, try treating them with a topical antibiotic. Whatever you do, don’t pop them yourself. Popped blisters are more likely to become infected and scarred.
Also, stay away from any of these products:
- Anything with petroleum in it (like Lanolin)
- Butter- There’s a rumor that butter or cooking oil is an effective way for treating sunburn in babies and toddlers. Actually, butter can trap heat against the skin, making the burn feel worse.
- Lotions with numbing agents, like benzocaine.
- Any antiseptic with alcohol
When to See Your Doctor
Baby sunburn remedies are great, but if you think your baby is suffering from severe sunburn (such as sun blisters) and seems like he’s in pain, it’s a good idea to call your pediatrician just to be safe.
Exposure to the sun can cause other heat-related problems such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat rash. While a tepid bath is a great treatment for heat rash, heat exhaustion and heat stroke is a much more serious issue.
Call your doctor right away if you notice these signs:
- High fever (103 or over)
- Eye inflammation
What’s Your Favorite Baby Sunburn Treatment?
When you’re treating sunburn in babies and toddlers, you’re really doing three things: soothing, healing, and hydrating. If you focus on satisfying these needs your little guy will be back to his happy self in no time.
Those are the best products and tips for sunburn relief for babies and toddlers I know of! I hope one of these remedies helped your baby. Just remember to play it safe and talk with your doctor beforehand before trying any natural remedy.
Have a great summer, Mama!