Summer’s a lot more fun when you are prepared to handle sunburns and have taught your kids about swimming pool safety
By Dr. Joseph Allen, medical director of the emergency department at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus
Children spend more time outdoors during the summer, and fun holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day mean outdoor grilling and spending time at the pool. It’s important that families be prepared to participate in these activities safely and understand the potential risks involved.
Many parents wonder how to react if their child is burned. Burns are categorized into first-, second- and third-degree, depending upon how badly the skin is damaged. It’s important to treat every burn quickly to reduce the temperature of the burned area and prevent further damage to the surrounding skin and tissue. Never use ice, butter or powder on the burned area, and be sure to give your child medication like Motrin or Advil to help relieve some of the pain.
Assess how badly the skin is burned and take the appropriate steps to help treat it.
- First-degree burns: The skin will be red but with no blistering. Most sunburns fall into this category, and a trip to the emergency room isn’t necessary. However, you can always call your pediatrician’s office and ask to speak with a nurse about next steps. We suggest administering cold water on the area to quickly reduce the skin’s temperature.
- Second-degree burns: There will be redness along with blistering. It’s important not to pop the blisters and to take your child to the closest pediatric emergency room for evaluation.
- Third-degree burns: This happens when multiple layers of skin are burned away. Usually blisters are not seen because the top layers of skin are gone. Take your child to the emergency room immediately for medical treatment.
In addition to seeking medical attention for second- and third-degree burns, you should also take your child to a pediatric emergency center if they have large burns—for instance, covering their entire back or chest—or if they have facial burns.
If your child plans to be outside, be sure he or she is wearing sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF. This should be reapplied every two hours.
We also urge caution when their children are swimming. Pools offer an escape from the heat, but a day of fun can quickly turn into an emergency situation. Home swimming pools are the most common sites for drowning to occur for children between the ages of one and four years. All children and young adults should be supervised near pools by someone in addition to a lifeguard. If you have your own pool at home, put a fence around it, at least four feet high on all sides. Check to make sure there are no holes in the fence. Additionally, most children would benefit from some type of swim class but they will still need to be supervised when around pools to reduce the risk of water-related injuries and accidents. It’s also important that all adults learn CPR. If a tragic accident does occur, immediately call 9-1-1 and begin administering CPR.