Burns are a significant cause of hospitalization and even permanent disability for children. Thousands of children suffer every year from severe burns that require medical attention, and almost all of these can be prevented one way or the other. Successful burn prevention not only requires vigilance on the part of parents and caretakers, but it also relies on preventative measures implemented around the house to segregate toddlers from hot objects in the first place.
Despite the best of intentions and precautions, children regularly suffer from burns caused by hot liquids and surfaces. Children are naturally curious, and during the process of exploring the exciting new world, it's almost inevitable that they will suffer minor burns at one time or another.
The first thing you should do after your child is burned is to remove your child from the source of heat to prevent any additional burn. Immediately run cold water over the burned skin and keep it submerged as long as possible (half an hour or more). The cold water keeps the heat on the surface of the skin from penetrating deeper into the tissue. As you drench the skin with cold water, remove any jewelry or clothing from the burned area. These objects can trap heat and cause deeper burns into the skin.
A common old wives' tale instructs parents to treat a burn by smearing the affected skin with butter. Doing so only makes a burn worse. The grease from the butter traps heat against the skin, making the tissue damage deeper and more serious. Do not apply anything on the surface of the skin immediately after a burn.
After the burn cools down, take a look at the skin. If the skin starts to form blisters, you need to contact your doctor for a visit. If your child suffers a burn on the face, in the genital area, or over a large area of the body (larger than the palm of your hand), you should seek medical attention without delay. If the burn is mild and does not require a doctor's visit, you can treat the skin with a moisturizing cream. If the skin blisters or breaks open at any time, you should take your child to the pediatrician.
Inadequate sun protection is a rampant phenomenon in children. Adults often neglect to protect themselves and their children from the sun. Even if sunscreen is applied prior to sun exposure, it is often done insufficiently. The sunscreen is often applied only once, at the beginning of the day, and forgotten. This creates a problem because as children sweat and engage in active play, the sunscreen is gradually removed. It is especially important to reapply sunscreen if children are engaged in water activities.
Babies under six months old are too young to use sunscreens. Their skin is so sensitive that the application of sunscreen might trigger an allergic reaction. What parents must do is to shield their tender skin from the sun. Even brief sun exposure can result in a serious sunburn.
Parents commonly want to know what type of sunscreen they should use. An SPF rating of at least 15 is mandatory to protect the skin, and an SPF higher than 45 is usually overkill. Remember, reapplication is the key, not a high SPF number. If your child is swimming or sweating a lot, you need to reapply the sunscreen at least every two hours.
Even with meticulous use of sunscreen, the best way to protect your child from skin damage is with a layer of clothing or another physical barrier. Large-brimmed hats and umbrellas are more effective than any sunscreen if they can shield your child's skin completely.