Seven Tips for Treating a Sunburn at Home

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Jun 2 2010 - 9:59am

A sunburn is an actual burn of your skin from the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or other UV light sources (ie tanning beds). A sunburn can occur from as little as 15 minutes of midday sun exposure in a very light-skinned person.

The first signs of a sunburn may not appear for a few hours after the UV exposure. Sunburns may often appear “worse” the day after being at the beach, as it can take 24 hours or longer for the full effect of the UV damage to your skin to appear.

Sunburned skin is red and tender skin that is warm to the touch. Severe sunburned skin may result in the formation of blisters. Almost all sunburned skin will result in skin peeling on the burned areas several days after the sunburn.

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It is always best to PREVENT sunburns, but when the sunburn occurs use these seven tips for comfort and healing:

  1. Take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprophen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin. Do NOT give aspirin to children. These help decrease the inflammation and reduce the amount of redness and pain. The pain from a sunburn is usually worst between 6 and 48 hours after sun exposure.
  2. If your skin is not blistering, moisturizing cream may be applied to relieve discomfort. Store the moisturizing cream in the refrigerator between applications as the coolness will aid in comfort to your skin.
  3. Apply cool compresses to the burned skin. Cold wash clothes work well.
  4. Avoid hot showers or bathes. Take a luke warm bath instead. If there is no blistering of the skin, consider adding Aveeno Collodial Oatmeal to the bath water. It will aid in anti-inflammatory relief and act as a moisturizer for your skin.
  5. Avoid any additional sun or UV light exposure while your sunburn is healing. Clothing is better than protection while healing – long sleeves, hats, etc.
  6. Avoid products that contain benzocaine and lidocaine. They may actually create more itching and inflammation by causing an allergic contact dermatitis.
  7. If your sunburned skin develops blisters, resist the urge to pop them. The blister cover is actually protecting your raw skin underneath.

If your blistering is extensive or you have a severe reactions suggestive of "sun poisoning”, including fever, chills, nausea, or rash, see your family physician.

Related stories
Solutions for Summertime Skin Problems
Caring for dry skin during cold winter weather

Sources
National Institute of Medicine
Mayo Clinic

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