Like adults, children can suffer from sunburn after too long exposure to the sun.
In the case of sunburn, UV radiation causes inflammation of the skin, which is accompanied by pain, redness, swelling and sometimes blistering of the affected areas of the skin.

The sensitive skin of children in particular is much more susceptible than that of adults.
It is therefore important to protect children particularly well from the sun and to avoid sunburn as completely as possible, also with regard to premature skin aging.

What to watch out for when getting sunburned in babies, read the following article: Sunburn in the baby

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These are the causes of sunburn

Sunlight is made up of different types of radiation.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation) is particularly important for sunburn.
It consists of light of different wavelengths.
UV-B radiation in particular causes sunburn, i.e. burns the upper layers of the skin.
It can overcome the earth's ozone layer and penetrates into the so-called epidermis, the top layer of human skin.

The longer-wave UV-A radiation can also cause sunburn.
It penetrates even deeper into the layers of the skin, but is less energetic. Skin cells in the epidermis are damaged by radiation.
This damage causes an inflammatory reaction in the skin, which can also spread to deeper layers of the skin.
This is where the typical symptoms of sunburn occur.

Children in particular are at risk of being burned by UV radiation.
Their skin is usually only weakly pigmented and not used to sunlight.
The skin's dark pigments can intercept UV radiation, which is why fair-skinned people are more prone to sunburn than those with darker skin.

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Treatment of a sunburn

A light sunburn heals on its own within a few days.
In the case of pain, cooling can often help.
Care should be taken to never place cooling pads directly on the skin, but always wrap them in a thin cloth or washing glove and only then place them on the skin. More severe sunburns, especially those that are accompanied by blistering, require professional therapy at a pediatrician.
After examining the burned skin, the doctor will decide on the treatment.

You can also read which sun protection options work for children: Sun protection for children - helpful tips that work

Can a fever occur?

Particularly large burns can also be accompanied by fever and other general symptoms, such as malaise and circulatory problems, as the body shows a general inflammatory reaction.
If a child develops a fever after sunburn, a pediatrician should be consulted immediately.
In such a case, it cannot be ruled out that the child may also suffer from heat stroke or sunstroke.
Then a hospital stay may even be necessary.

How to lower a fever in the child, read in our article: How can you lower a fever?

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When should i give ibuprofen?

While adults with severe sunburn pain can resort to pain relievers such as ibuprofen, a pediatrician should first be consulted for a child with sunburn.
If the pain cannot be relieved by cooling and resting, he or she can decide together with the parents whether a pain reliever juice can be given.

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These ointments can help

In addition to home remedies, ointments with aloe vera can also be used for minor burns.
These have a cooling effect, but at the same time also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Moisturizing creams also help the skin to regenerate.

A more severe sunburn, especially with blistering, is treated by the doctor with antiseptic ointments.
These prevent pathogens from spreading in the wounds.

Ointments containing fat can then also be used.
However, these should never be applied without consulting the pediatrician.

What home remedies are there?

A slight sunburn can be treated well with home remedies.
Cool compresses and wraps are particularly suitable for this.
These can be used with quark or chamomile tea, for example.

To do this, the quark is applied to a kitchen towel, or the towel is soaked with cold chamomile tea, and then carefully placed on the affected area.
The cooling effect can last up to 30 minutes.

Particularly with children, care should be taken that they do not cool down
Caution is advised with flour, oil or the like, which are also often touted as home remedies.
These agents can even have harmful effects and must therefore not be used. Severe sunburns must not be treated with home remedies, but are treated by the doctor.

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Forecast / duration

A slight sunburn goes away by itself after a few days and heals without consequences.
Sunburns, which are accompanied by blistering, can also heal completely, but sometimes scars remain.
A more severe sunburn can take several weeks to heal.
In extreme cases, hospitalization may be necessary.
In addition, there is the risk of skin cancer in old age, which increases significantly, especially with frequent or severe sunburn.

For this reason it is important to avoid any sunburn if possible and to pay attention to sun protection.

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Then read our next article on this: Sunburn in the child

Concomitant symptoms

With sunburn, the skin shows typical symptoms of a mild to moderate burn.
The first symptom of a sunburn is usually a reddening of the affected skin area.

The cheeks, bridge of the nose and ears are particularly often affected on the face.
Here the skin is particularly soft and therefore most susceptible to sun exposure.
The rest of the body is usually reddened in the typical sun-exposed areas, such as the shoulders, neck or upper arms.
In the process, the burned areas often itch.
In addition, a very classic symptom is pain.

How to relieve the itching of sunburn, read here: Itchy skin during and after sunburn


While superficial burns can also take place without pain, pain usually occurs, especially with large-scale sunburn.
The skin then hurts mainly when touched, but it can also do this at rest.
In addition, there is a typical feeling of tension, which can be felt especially on the shoulders or neck.
The tight skin can lead to painful restrictions on movement.
Above all, care should be taken not to put on the child too tight and additionally rubbing clothing, as this can intensify the pain and also cause additional irritation.

Read more on the subject at: Sunburn pain - this must be done

Swollen face

Especially if no sunscreen has been applied to the face, extensive sunburn can occur on the face.
In addition to the typical redness and pain, swelling can also occur.

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The inflammation in the different layers of the skin also makes the blood vessels more permeable.
Fluid penetrates from the vessels and into the surrounding tissue.
The result is what is known as edema (fluid accumulation in the tissue).
If the swelling is very pronounced or if the affected child is still very young, a visit to the pediatrician is highly recommended.

Different degrees of bubbles

Depending on the severity of the burn caused by the UV radiation, burn blisters can form in addition to the symptoms already described.
The first-degree burn does not yet show any blisters, just reddening.
With a degree 2a burn, intact, partly fluid-filled bladders appear for the first time.

Grade 2b is then accompanied by opened and additionally weeping burn blisters.
Blistering indicates severe burns of the skin and definitely requires treatment.
The blisters must never be opened at home with a needle or the like, as this can lead to the introduction of germs into the wounds.
You will need professional care from the pediatrician to prevent infection.


It is advisable to consult a pediatrician if you suspect sunburn, especially with young children and babies.
This will take an anamnesis (medical history), in which particular attention is given to previous stays in the sun and possibly a lack of sun protection (sun cream with a high sun protection factor, sun hat, other protective textiles).
Then the affected areas of the skin are examined.
The doctor looks for redness and blistering.
Sunburn can usually be diagnosed unequivocally in this way.

The following article provides tips on how to prevent sunburn: How to prevent sunburn

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