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Essential steps for treating sunburn pain

The lines tell it all.

(Photo Credit: Flickr/Kelly Sue)

Essential steps for treating sunburn pain

June 01, 2012

Sunburn is an unavoidable fact for most of us during the summer. Try as you might to avoid it, sometimes you miss a spot with your sunscreen or forget to apply it for a short stint outdoors.

The dangers of exposure to sunlight go far beyond the pain of sunburn, of course. But on those occasions you forget sunscreen and have to endure the redness and discomfort, here are some helpful tips provided by experts on JustAnswer.

Limit damage to the skin

“Unfortunately, there is no fast-fix sunburn treatment,” said Deborah J., a nurse on JustAnswer. “Once sunburn occurs, you can't do much to limit damage to your skin.” Her suggestions:

  • Apply cold compresses. Use a towel dampened with cool tap water and apply it to the affected skin. Or take a cool bath.
  • Moisturize. Apply a moisturizing cream, aloe gel, or 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected skin.

“As the skin heals, apply lotion generously several times a day,” said Dr. Anthony Bray. “This should help with the peeling and drying.”

He also recommends Water-Jel burn gel or Solarcaine. Both have a topical ingredient to give some anesthesia to the area applied.

What to do about blisters

Blisters may form four to six hours after exposure to sun. If this happens, do not break the blisters.

“They contain your natural body fluid (serum) and are a protective layer,” said Deborah J. “Also, breaking blisters slows the healing process and increases the risk of infection. If needed, you can lightly cover blisters with gauze.”

If the blisters begin to break, apply an antibacterial ointment, said Mel D., also a nurse and expert on JustAnswer. “This will help keep infection from developing.”

Watch out for severe sunburn

Severe sunburn may require Expert medical care. See a doctor if:

  • Severe sunburn covers a large portion of your body with blisters.
  • Sunburn is accompanied by a high fever or extreme pain.
  • Severe sunburn doesn't respond to at-home care within a few days.

Of course, the best ways to enjoy the outdoors with minimal sunburn pain are to limit exposure to the sun and apply sunscreen liberally.