Yes, an oatmeal bath makes the list, but more common remedies might be more practical options
Effective remedies for alleviating a sunburn range from a washcloth soaked in cool water to aloe vera lotions, but there are some unusual remedies that are also effective.
And a couple that aren’t.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should give your sunburned child a bath in oatmeal paste. But if you did, it will ease the pain and itch. Oats, it turns out, are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
“Oatmeal is soothing to many kinds of rashes,” says Nicole Baldwin, MD, a pediatrician affiliated with Cincinnati Children’s. She’s a bigger proponent of more common remedies such as aloe vera lotion.
“There’s a lot of research that aloe vera helps cool the skin and heal it,” she says. “The first key is cooling, to relieve the inflammation. A cool bath or applying a washcloth to the affected skin will help, too.”
If pain persists, Baldwin recommends an age-appropriate dose of ibuprofen for children older than six months.
She cautions against some remedies for sunburn that are readily promoted online. One is to add one cup of cider vinegar to a bath to restore proper pH balance (acidity vs. alkalinity) of sunburned skin. “I didn’t find any research that advocated for that,” she says.
Several other options have downsides that are important to remember. Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties, because it draws tissue together and constricts blood vessels, but some versions contain alcohol, which will sting and dry out the skin.
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and is effective in the healing process of scars and inflamed skin, but isn't ideal in alleviating the pain of sunburn."
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, parents should avoid any ointments containing benzocaine or lidocaine, which can irritate the skin, or petroleum, which traps heat under the skin.
As always, parents should do careful research and consult their pediatrician if a child’s sunburn begins to blister severely, Baldwin says.
“The biggest lesson for parents is the reminder to re-apply sunscreen,” she says. “Parents are typically good with first applications, but the frequent reapplying sometimes gets forgotten.”