Emergency sunburn relief

0e6d33e5-2649-11df-9d36-0017a4aa266a 30f9ba46-2647-11df-b61e-0017a4aa266a Tip 156Using sunscreen will help prevent burns, but if you do find you’ve reddened more than you intended, here are some steps to help facilitate healing:

1. Get out of the sun. Staying in the sun after the burn is present will make it worse.
2. Look for blisters. Blistering means the skin is completely damaged and complications are likely. If the area with blisters is bigger than one entire arm or the whole abdomen, seek medical attention by calling 911 or visiting the emergency department.
3. Take a cool shower or bath to soothe the pain.
4. Apply aloe or another cooling agent. What you should NOT use is butter or any type of oil. Also avoid products that contain benzocaine, lidocaine, or petroleum (like Vaseline). These so-called remedies can actually clog the pores and keep the skin from breathing and healing.
5. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used for the pain of a sunburn, but be sure to know how it can affect your blood sugar levels. If stronger pain relief is needed, contact a physician or go to the emergency department.
6. While the burn is healing, wear loose natural clothing like silks or light cottons. Harsher fabrics will irritate the skin even more.

Burns cause swelling and burns of the face and neck can sometimes swell enough to cause difficulty breathing. In this case, call 911 immediately. If the burn completely circles the hands or feet, the resulting swelling could restrict blood flow. If swollen or tight hands and feet become numb and tingly, blue, cold, or "fall asleep," again call 911 immediately.

MedLine Plus. Sunburn first aid. (Accessed 7/15/08)

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08

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Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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