As parents living in sunny South Africa, we all know we need to take steps to protect our families from the sun’s rays. But what happens if we miss a spot when applying sunscreen or spend too long outdoors? Here are five natural ways to treat sunburn…. By Tammy Jacks
Did you know that most of the sunscreens on the market today, even broad-spectrum SPF sunscreens with added antioxidants, don’t provide enough sun protection? “South Africa has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, which is why sun protection isn’t only about preventing or treating sunburn, it’s also about taking steps to prevent developing life-threatening diseases in the future, for ourselves and our children,” says Lamelle Medical Director, Dr Bradley Wagemaker.
What does sunburn look like?
Sunburn doesn’t have to mean red, raw, blistered or peeling skin says Dr Wagemaker. Too much sun exposure, for children and adults can range from subtle skin changes, to tightness, red hot skin, or the obvious painful sunburn with blistering and even sun stroke – which needs to be treated immediately.
Treating sunburn in children
Little ones’ skins are extremely vulnerable to environmental factors, including the sun. In fact, childrens’ skins are still developing and are so sensitive that the National Skin Cancer Foundation says babies under six months of age should never be exposed to the sun. Babies older than six months should be protected from the sun, and wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect their eyes.
TOP TIP: The National Skin Cancer Foundation says that sunburn should be treated as an emergency in children under the age of one. Call your doctor immediately if your baby’s skin is red or inflamed.
If your little one is sunburned, it’s important to act fast and help the skin to heal, says Dr Wagemaker.
Here are a few natural remedies you should keep in your first-aid kit or nappy bag:
Water or juice
Sunburn can also cause dehydration in general, which is dangerous for children. Make sure your child keeps her fluid levels up by drinking small sips of water or juice regularly.
Tea tree oil
This is probably the oldest and most effective natural remedy for sunburnt skin, says Dr Wagemaker. Soothing tea tree gels can help to reduce redness, pain and possibly even cell injury.
The gel from inside the cactus plant has exceptional soothing qualities and, also helps to rehydrate the skin. It also contains certain natural chemicals, which reduce peeling and redness in the skin.
Sunburnt skin is often red, dry, inflamed and irritated. It’s important to replenish lost moisture and prevent the skin from peeling with a good barrier cream that’s free from chemicals and fragrances. This will also provide extra protection against other environmental irritants. Avoid using medicated cream like hydrocortisone or benzocaine, unless your baby’s doctor tells you to, warn skincare experts from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
A tepid bath
This will immediately help to ease inflammation and cool the skin (just ensure the water isn’t too hot or cold). You could also soak a soft washcloth in milk and apply to red areas to create a protein-rich barrier on the skin.
Did you know? Icy gels containing menthol do nothing more than provide the illusion of cooling says Dr Wagemaker. They don’t treat or repair the skin.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .