How to Treat a Sunburn


Florida Medical Clinic

Summer in Tampa is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean the risk of sunburn is entirely gone. Take the proper precautions and use sunscreen, or wear UV protective clothing!

With red and peeling skin that’s painful to the touch, sunburns are harmful to adults and children alike. While they may just seem like an inconvenience, sunburns can increase the risk of melanoma, which is a form of skin cancer.

When you’re relaxing by the pool, or having fun out on the bay, it can be easy to miss the telltale pink of sunburn. It may take 4 to 6 hours for the full symptoms of red and peeling skin or blisters to appear.

Redness and Peeling Skin? Time for Sunburn Treatment!

How To Treat A Sunburn - Florida Medical ClinicSkin that is red, peeling, and itching can be maddening regardless of whether it’s on your face, arms, neck, or back. If you’re looking to treat a sunburn fast, you’ll need to take good care of the area in order for it to heal. Here are some options for how to treat a sunburn.

Take a Cool Bath!

To reduce pain, inflammation, and itching, add oatmeal to a cool bath and soak, adding more cool water as necessary. When you are done, pat yourself dry. Wear loose cotton clothing, as this allows your skin to breathe and heal quickly.

Clean and Moisturize

  • Keep the area clean, but don’t use soap since this can irritate the area. Pat, not scrub, dry.
  • Use aloe and lotion to moisturize and soothe. Witch hazel lotion may soothe skin, but this is not a proven fact.
  • Avoid lotions that contain petroleum, benzocaine, and lidocaine.

DIY Compresses

Make compresses at home with ingredients that you may already have. Make sure they are cool, as this will help relieve the pain.

  • Brewed and cooled black tea
  • Cucumbers made into paste
  • Oatmeal soaked in water and strained
  • Cornstarch mixed with water
  • Mix 1 cup of fat-free milk with 4 cups of water

Lay cool compresses over the affected area for 20 – 30 minutes. Don’t scrub the area dry, as this will bother the skin further.

Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Take an anti-inflammatory medication if possible. This helps prevent the redness from spreading, as well as keep the pain down.

Use Hydrocortisone Creams

Use a hydrocortisone cream to reduce swelling, relieve pain, and prevent yourself from scratching.

Keep Hydrated

Stay hydrated and well fed. Sunburns take a lot out of your body, and can cause dehydration easily. Your body needs both fuel and hydration to recover faster.

If Your Sunburn is Blistered…

A blistered sunburn means that you’ve got a second degree burn. As tempting as it is to pick at or pop them, leave blisters alone.

  • Clean the area without using soap.
  • Apply cool, water-only compresses to the area.
  • If the blister pops, use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to keep the area from getting infected.
  • Change dressings for blisters regularly, and keep the area clean.
  • Wear loose, cotton clothing to reduce the risk of accidentally breaking open a blister.

Treating Sunburns on Lips

Believe it or not, even lips can get sunburned! Many lip balms offer SPF protection, but are most effective if applied regularly during a day in the sun.

Sunburns on lips are tricky to treat, since they’re impossible to bandage, and many topical antibiotics or hydrocortisone creams are not safe to ingest.

Unfortunately, there’s really no fast way to treat sunburns on lips. Staying hydrated, keeping the area clean, taking anti-inflammatory medications, and avoiding re-exposure to the sun are your best bet at healing sunburned lips quickly.

Avoid putting petroleum jelly on your lips, peeling or picking at the skin, and popping any blisters that form, no matter how it looks!

How To Treat A Sunburn - Florida Medical ClinicThings to Avoid for Sunburn Treatment

  • Don’t pick at, scrub, or peel your blisters or peeling skin.
  • Avoid using soap during showers or baths, since the soap will dry and irritate skin further.
  • Avoid lotions that include petroleum, benzocaine, and lidocaine. Petroleum traps heat, while benzocaine and lidocaine can irritate the skin.
  • Don’t spend a prolonged amount of time in the sun when you’ve got a sunburn. This will slow the healing process, and possibly damage the existing sunburn further.
  • If you have a burst blister, don’t mess with the loose skin surrounding the area.
  • Avoid treatments that involve vinegar, egg whites, or petroleum jelly.
  • Do not put ice directly onto a sunburn. This can damage the skin further. Always make sure that any ice packs are wrapped in a towel or cloth before applying it to the affected area.

When to Seek Treatment

Sometimes, sunburns lead to heatstroke or dehydration, and you will need to seek medical attention. Consult a doctor if you or the person suffering from sunburn experiences any of the following:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid pulse or breathing

Florida Medical Clinic Dermatology Department

The Florida Medical Clinic Dermatology Department specializes in diagnosing and treating all aspects of skin care, from benign skin lesions to in-depth reconstructive surgery. We are more than happy to help answer any questions you may have about caring for and maintaining healthy skin.




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