How to treat a sunburn

No matter how careful you try to be when you go outside for long periods of time, everyone will end up with a sunburn at some point in their lives. While bad sunburns can be dangerous, and frequent burns will put you at a higher risk for skin cancer, a mild burn every once in a while isn’t typically something to worry about. Still, when you return home from the beach or your local amusement park to find that your skin is red and painful to the touch, it can quickly ruin your day. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when treating a sunburn in order to relieve the pain and speed up healing.

  • Take a cool bath or shower – Even though you have gotten out of the sun, your skin will continue to feel worse until it starts to cool down. Try taking a bath or a shower in water that is just below lukewarm. Don’t use soap or any other products that could act as irritants. Instead, just let the water take away some of the sting. You can repeat this process as often as you want over the first few days when your burn feels the most tender.
  • Take a Pain Reliever – Over-the-counter pain relievers can be your best friends when you first notice the pain of a new sunburn. Start taking ibuprofen immediately after your burn starts to hurt, and continue taking it for the first 48 hours. Not only will the medication ease the pain, but it will also reduce some of the swelling and redness associated with your burn and may even help prevent long-term skin damage. If you don’t have ibuprofen, you can also take acetaminophen to help with the pain, but it won’t have any effect on the swelling.
  • Drink Plenty of Water – Because your body will react to the burn by drawing fluids from inside your body toward your skin, you may potentially start to feel dehydrated. You should, therefore, drink plenty of fluids in the first few days after you get sunburned. The best antidotes to dehydration are water and sports drinks. Contact your doctor if you start to feel dizzy, have a bad headache, or feel overly tired, as these can all be signs that your attempts to hydrate aren’t doing enough.
  • Put on Lotion – Different people’s opinions will vary as to the best products to apply to a sunburn. For immediate relief, you can apply aloe vera or some type of cortisone cream, though you should only use these products for the first few days. You can also put regular moisturizing lotion on your skin until the burn has faded away. While it probably won’t relieve the pain, lotion can help with itching by keeping your skin from getting too dry. Other home remedies for topical application include tea bags, witch hazel, skim milk, and vinegar, though none of these has been scientifically proven to help a sunburn.
  • Prevent it From Recurring – While no one ever intends to get a sunburn, it is among the most easily preventable injuries if you take proper precautions. After you have recovered from your burn, try to always take the proper steps to keep it from happening again. Wear sunscreen whenever you plan to spend more than a few minutes outside. You can also protect your face and scalp by wearing a hat when the sun is particularly strong. Multiple sunburns can be very detrimental to your long-term health (in addition to being painful), so always do your best to prevent them from happening.