Feeling the Sting of Sunburn? These Tips Can Help
Surf’s up, sun’s out and that means sunburns are on the rise. We know a lot more about sunburn and the risks of sun exposure today than we did a couple of decades ago, and more and more people understand the vital importance of wearing sunscreen – and wearing enough of it. But sometimes, even despite our best efforts, a burn can occur.
Sunburn is literally that – a burn, yet many people fail to treat it with the same concern as, say, a burn from contact with a stove or other hot surface. Left untreated, mild sunburn can heal on its own, but the healing period can be slow and uncomfortable –especially in the first couple of days.
If you or a family member winds up with a little too much sun exposure, here’s what you can do to help relieve the pain, stinging, swelling and other symptoms that may occur:
- Reduce the burn by applying cool compresses to the area or taking cool showers or baths.
- Try adding a cup of apple cider vinegar to bath water to restore the skin’s natural pH balance and reduce stinging.
- A cup of oatmeal added to bath water can also help soothe skin and restore moisture.
- Try applying a cloth soaked in freshly brewed tea. Some reports indicate the tea can relieve stinging and restore the skin to its natural pH levels.
Lotions and creams
- Lotions that contain aloe vera can provide some relief for sore, stinging skin; apply regularly to help skin stay hydrated.
- Topical 1% hydrocortisone cream can also be used to relieve the itch, pain and swelling from sunburn.
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Like any burn, sunburn can deplete your body of needed fluids, drawing fluid away from the inside of your body and toward the skin. As the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests, be sure to drink plenty of water or sports drinks for a day or two following your burn and watch for signs of dehydration, including significant thirst, dizziness, confusion, reduced urine output, headache and insomnia.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol®), aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil®) to help manage discomfort including headache and fever that may occur. Some studies suggest ibuprofen may also help with swelling.
Caring for Blisters and Peeling Skin
Do not pick at blisters or pop them, and don’t peel your damaged skin or scrub or exfoliate it. Allow skin to slough away on its own and ask your doctor about how to care for blisters that are large or occur in areas that interfere with movement, like the bottom of your foot or under a bra strap or waistband.
When to See Your Doctor
While most symptoms of mild sunburn can be safely treated at home, call your doctor when blistering occurs on 20 percent or more of the body’s surface – for instance, your entire back – or if fever and chills develop and persist. Also contact your doctor to report any persistent symptoms of dehydration or if you feel confused or agitated or experience other signs sunstroke, including dizziness, nausea or vomiting or muscle weakness or cramps.
Finally, consider the burn a wake-up call that you need to be more vigilant next time. To avoid future sunburns, be sure to apply sunscreen liberally – at least an ounce each time – and often, especially if you’re sweating or in the water. And for more information on how to care for a sunburn, call our office at 212-772-7242.