Treating Sunburns

by Catherine Rein
(last updated April 22, 2009)

I love to spend time outdoors and as a child spent many hours swimming and running around the fields near our house. During the summer this naturally meant that I had my share of sunburns. Looking back I wish I'd taken more precautions to prevent sunburn. They are painful and can cause lasting damage including wrinkles and skin cancer.

You should avoid sunburn by using long loose clothing, hats and sunglasses, especially on children. Children's skin is more sensitive making them at higher risk of sunburn. Sunscreen is a must, with an SPF of at least 15. Fair-skinned children should use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater applied 20-30 minutes before sun exposure. The sun's rays are more intense at higher elevations, so special precautions should be taken in these areas.

If you or a loved one does get too much sun exposure here are the steps to treating sunburn:

  1. Take a cool bath or shower. You can cool sunburn by taking frequent cooling baths or showers. Cool compresses can also be helpful.
  2. Apply soothing aloe vera lotion. An alcohol-free moisturizer with Vitamin E or aloe can help sooth and protect the skin. You should not use heavy creams or butter to treat sunburn as these can make the sunburn worse.
  3. 3. Treat dehydration by drinking liquids. A day in the sun can cause dehydration. You can treat the dehydration by drinking fluids, especially plenty of water. The sunburn itself can cause a mild fever or headache. You can treat the fever and headache by restricting activity and lying down in a quiet area or by taking pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil. Be sure to consult a doctor before taking nonprescription medicine, especially in children.

If your sunburn is particularly severe, blisters may appear. Do not break the blisters and try to avoid wearing clothing or shoes that might irritate the blisters until they have healed. If the blister does break, clean the wound gently, apply an antibiotic ointment such as polymixin B or bacitracin and apply a loose bandage to prevent infection. You should not use alcohol or iodine on the blister as these may actually delay healing.

You should look for signs of infection as the sunburn blister heals. Increased pain, swelling, redness or warmth are signs the blister may have become infected. You might also check for fever, swollen glands or drainage.

Author Bio

Catherine Rein

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