How to Treat Sunburn This Summer

Sunburn cases can vary dramatically in their severity. In severe cases, it is recommended that professional help is sought. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic states that you should see a doctor if the sunburn is blistering and covering a large portion of the body or if it is accompanied by high fever, extreme pain or headaches.

Once the skin is burnt, efforts should be turned toward soothing the pain and aiding the healing process. As soon as it becomes apparent that the skin is sunburnt, the first thing that should be done is getting out of the sun, preferably indoors. Once the risk of further UV exposure is minimized, there are a number of things that can be done to treat the burn.

Cooling and moisturizing

Cooling the skin down is one immediate way to make it feel less uncomfortable. This can be achieved by placing damp towels on the skin or with a cool bath or shower. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends keeping towels on affected areas for 10-15 minutes a few times every day.

Leaving a small amount of water on the skin – particularly after a bath or shower – and then applying moisturizer can help trap the water in the skin, easing the dryness. Moisturizing after bathing the skin is especially important as without it the skin can be left feeling drier than before.

Be aware of what ingredients are in moisturizing lotions, however. Some contain petroleum, which can trap heat in the skin, and some contain benzocaine and lidocaine that can irritate the skin.

Peeling skin and blisters

As well as soothing the skin, moisturizing can make peeling and flaking less noticeable, serving as further reason for the image-conscious to apply it. Peeling is a natural consequence of sunburn, merely the body’s way of removing damaged skin.

If blisters form, experts recommend they are not broken. Breaking open blisters not only slows the skin’s healing process but increase the risk of infection. If a blister inadvertently breaks, be sure to clean the area gently with water and mild soap, apply antibacterial cream and protect the area with a wet dressing. If you are worried and want to protect blisters, lightly cover them with gauze.

Pain relief

There are a number of over-the-counter medications that can be taken to relieve pain caused by sunburn. Pain relief medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen should be taken as soon as signs of sunburn emerge, according to Barton Schmitt, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“It cuts back on the swelling and redness that is going to occur,” he explains to the SCF. “It’s not just treating the symptoms, it’s treating the severity of the symptoms.”

In addition to moisturizer, a low-dose hydrocortisone cream (0.5-1%) can reduce pain and swelling while speeding up the recovery process. This cream is also available for purchase without a prescription.

Keep hydrated

Sunburn not only dries out the skin but the inside of the body as well, drawing water away from the rest of the body and to the surface of the skin. This means that it is important for people with sunburn to drink extra water to prevent dehydration and help the skin heal.

Eating foods with a high concentration of water can also help. One large portion of watermelon, for example, can provide more than 1 cup of water. Remember to stick to a balanced diet, however, as the skin needs a healthy range of nutrients in order to regenerate properly.

Protect healing skin

While the skin is healing, you should take care to keep it protected. Avoid further sun exposure by either staying out of the sun or protecting the skin as much as possible when venturing outside. Cover up with clothing made from tightly-woven fabrics.

Rest is important, but sleeping can be difficult when the body is sunburnt. Sprinkling talcum powder on bedsheets could help reduce friction and chafing and so make attempting to go to sleep a more comfortable experience.

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