Sunscreen Safety and Poison Control

Sunscreens are usually only ingested in small amounts since they do not taste good.  If swallowed, they can be irritating to the stomach and can result in vomiting or diarrhea.  Symptoms are usually mild and self-limited, meaning once the sunscreen is eliminated from the body, the symptoms will go away.

Sunscreens should be applied to all exposed areas of the body, including the lips (use a sunscreen specifically intended for use on lips).  Use on infants under six months of age should be done under the direction of a physician.  Read the directions before applying sunscreen and follow directions carefully.  Reapply frequently according to the instructions, especially following swimming or excessive sweating.  Check the expiration date on your sunscreen left over from last season.  In general, sunscreens are effective for 3 years but should not be used past the expiration date since it may no longer be effective.

Some people are sensitive to the different oils, fragrances, alcohols or dyes present in sunscreen, and experience burning, stinging or redness with the use of these products.  If irritation develops after skin application, wash it off thoroughly, and stop further use.

If you find your child has ingested sunscreen, do not panic.  Take the sunscreen away from them, wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water to drink.  If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222.  The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.

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Toxicity: Only minor toxicity expected in small, accidental ingestions of sunscreen.

Expected symptoms: Ingestion of sunscreen usually involves small amounts, such as a child taking a taste or a lick of the sunscreen placed on the hand.   

Symptoms after a small ingestion may include mild stomach upset and diarrhea.

What to do: Wipe out the mouth using a soft, wet washcloth.  If the child is old enough, have him or her swish water in the mouth and spit out several times, and then give the child some water to drink.

Note: If sunscreen has gotten into the eyes, call the Missouri Poison Center right away for help and specific instructions as to how to flush the eye.

Contact Dunklin County Health Department

Walk-ins are welcome.