A guide to preventing and treating the three most common sun-related risks.

Condition: SUNBURN

(The child's skin is hot, inflamed, red, and tender.)

Prevention: Keep children indoors between 10 AM and 2 PM. If you're out during those times, try to stay in the shade. If that's not possible, make sure children over the average age of 6 months use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Treatment: Apply a cool, wet sheet or towel to the affected areas. Treat the skin very gently, and keep the child in shady areas when outdoors.


(The child becomes overheated and dehydrated and develops muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, and weakness.)

Prevention: Make sure children stay cool and have plenty to drink outdoors. Bring a large thermos outside with you so they'll have easy access to water.

Treatment: Find a cool place for the child to sit or lie down, and give her fluids - preferably an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte.


(The child seems drowsy and lethargic; has hot, dry skin; an, in extreme cases may lose consciousness and stop breathing.)

Prevention: Make sure children have plenty to drink, and avoid being outdoors during the hottest part of the day.

Treatment: Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Call an ambulance right away, then lay the child down and try to lower his body temperature. Sponge him with tepid water; wrap him in a cool, wet sheet; place a covered ice pack on his forehead; give him cool drinks; and aim a fan at his body.

Applying Sunscreen

  • If parents haven't applied sunscreen before children come to school, you need to do so before going outside, even on overcast days.
  • Line children up and, one by one, apply a generous amount to any exposed skin, especially noses and necks and tips of ears if no hair covers them.
  • Use an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply every hour that children are outside.
  • Reapply every hour that children are outside.
  • Remember: Never apply sunscreen to children under the age of 6 months or expose them to direct sunlight.

This article originally appeared in the May, 1998 issue of Early Childhood Today.