The best way to handle sunburn is not to get one. Protect yourself from the sun and avoid sunburn in the first place. A quick reminder:
- Put on broad spectrum sunscreen 30minutes before you go out into the sun and reapply about every two hours.
- Wear a hat and protective clothing and spend time in the shade when you’re outdoors.
- Stay out of the sun from 10:00 to 4:00 when the sun is at its peak.
But what if you do get a sunburn? More than one third of adults get one every year, and every sunburn increases your chances of skin cancer. But a sunburn can be very uncomfortable at the time, too.
How can you treat sunburn?
Start by cooling the skin. A cold compress or a cool bath can help. Cool baths can reduce pain over several days while your skin is healing. If you want to use moisturizing lotions after soaking in water, be sure to choose a water-based lotion. Oil-based lotions can actually increase the temperature of your skin. Avoid soap.
Apply an anti-inflammatory steroid cream to the reddened area and take ibuprofen or aspirin to help reduce the inflammation.
Stay hydrated, too. Your body will bring fluid to the skin to help heal the sunburn, so you will need extra fluids. Water is the best choice.
Be sure to stay out of the sun until your burn is fully healed.
When should you see a doctor?
If you have blistering instead of just redness, you should get professional medical help. You should also see a doctor if you have a fever, chills, or any sign of infection. If you experience extreme pain that isn’t helped by at-home treatment, that is also a good reason to see a doctor.