Love the sun - but be wary of the rays

This Spring has given us a record-breaking sunny spell and how we’ve loved it after all that rain in winter, not to mention how it’s brightened up the dreary days of lockdown. For the lucky ones getting out into their gardens has meant new interest, pleasure and the chance to cultivate the earth, to learn about plants and grow some food. 

It has also meant heat. And that can mean sunburn, sunstroke, prickly heat. Small children and babies need, of course, to be protected from too much sun, with hats on and light, loose clothing, and the regular application of a good sunscreen. But it’s difficult to keep children protected all the time, especially if there’s a paddling pool to splash about in.

Sun burn can happen to anyone living in the British climate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freckly red-head, a tanned blonde, or have melatonin-rich black skin, you can burn and it can be very sore  indeed and very red. Heat stroke is also a danger and can be very unpleasant as can prickly heat, that awfully itchy, irritating rash caused by exposure to sun and heat and made worse by the inevitable sweating that goes with hot weather.

The question is what to do if a little one, or indeed anyone, suffers any of these conditions.  It’s not always easy, particularly now, to get to a chemist or the GP, so prep up at home. The remedies are many and simple, available at home, in the kitchen cupboard, or easily attainable through the post. Take your pick:

The most important thing is to bring down the sunburned skin’s temperature and prickly heat inflammation so put the sufferer into a bath in cool water. If you have Little Herbs’ Bathe Baba you can add a desertspoonfull or two to the bathwater; it contains soothing herbs, oat flour and silky cornflour.

If you haven’t any, you can add one or two soothing herbs to the bath: distilled rosewater is lovely, or an infusion of burdock root, chamomile, chickweed, marigold or cleavers (known as Sticky Willy or goosegrass). Chop the herb up and poor boiling water over it, leave it to cool, then strain and pour into the cool bath water.

After the bath, gently apply Little Herbs’ Baby Balm (which contains calendula and chickweed) or Little Herbs’ Soothing Salve (with lavender).  If you don’t have either of those, try any of these: aloe vera gel, cool milk (cow or goat), pulped lettuce or cucumber, St John’s wort ointment, plain yoghurt, or coconut oil (India’s preferred treatment, where drinking coconut water is recommended too).

Sunstroke symptoms include feeling over-heated, restless, faint, sick, tired and headachy. If it is more severe and has developed into heatstroke, a child can suffer hot dry skin, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse and s/he should receive prompt medical attention.

Preventing sunstroke and heatstroke means limiting the time exposed to the sun in the hottest parts of the day, and keeping children and babies in the shade, making sure that they have plenty of water and juicy fresh fruits to stop dehydration.

If the child, or baby, does suffer sunstroke, take her/him indoors and settle them quietly on supporting cushions, remove clothing and sponge down the body with cool water. You could add lavender, mint or rose to the water to soothe both the skin and any anxiety they may feel. Give them plenty of cool – but not fridge cold – drinks. They will recover in a couple of hours but it’s probably not a good idea to send them straight out into the garden again!

If you are worried about symptoms persisting then seek medical advice.

But if you take sensible precautions, you and your little ones can enjoy and thrive in this beautiful summer weather, especially now that we are beginning to be able to see friends and wider family again. Have a happy sunny summer!

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Sources include:

HERBAL TREATMENT OF CHILDREN by Anne McIntyre pub Elsevier 2005 ISBN 978-0-7506-5174-5

HERBS POCKET ENCYCLOPEDIA by Lesley Bremness pub. Dorling Kindersley 1990 ISBN 0-86318-436-7

SAFE, NATURAL REMEDIES FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN by Amanda Cochrane pub Thorsons 1997 ISBN0-7225-3369-1