Sunburned? What to Do & When to Seek Help
There’s nothing better than a day in the sun to boost your spirits. There’s also nothing like the pain and discomfort of a sunburn to cramp your style. Sunburns span the gamut from mild to severe, and each requires its own type of treatment.
Mild to Moderate Sunburns
If your skin is visibly pink or pinkish-red, you have a mild to moderate sunburn. You may also develop a headache, chills and a few small blisters. To minimize the damage and discomfort:
- Get out of the sun. As soon as you notice sunburn developing, get out of the sun. Cover up, move to a fully shaded area, or head indoors.
- Take a mild pain reliever. To minimize discomfort, take aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen or ibuprofen. This can reduce swelling, ease pain, minimize tenderness and combat chills.
- Apply aloe vera. This natural plant gel is an ancient sunburn and skin treatment. It has a natural cooling effect that soothes skin and promotes healing.
- Cool down. Blot your skin with a cool, damp cloth, take a cool bath, or take a cool gentle shower. Skip soaps and cleansers, which might be irritating. Instead, try adding baking soda to bathwater, which boosts the cooling effect and encourages skin to retain moisture.
- Moisturize. Apply more aloe vera, or opt for lotions with ingredients such as ceramides, glycerin, soy, oatmeal, and vitamins C and E. Lotions with small amounts of hydrocortisone may alleviate discomfort, but avoid lotions with perfumes and fragrances which can irritate skin.
- Stay hydrated. To get rehydrated, consume plain, coconut or electrolyte-fortified water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine which are dehydrating.
- Avoid getting re-burned. Use sunscreens, sunblocks, cover-ups and shelter to avoid getting re-burned, which can quickly turn a manageable sunburn into something more severe.
Severe sunburns are characterized by bright red skin and extensive blistering, which may be accompanied by headache, confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting. If you’re experiencing these symptoms:
- Hydrate. Sip plain, coconut or fortified water to restore fluid and electrolyte levels, which may help alleviate some symptoms.
- Call a doctor. Call your physician or a nearby urgent care facility and describe your condition. The doctor will outline steps to follow and may prescribe medications to manage pain and prevent infections.
- Seek medical assistance. If you can’t reach a physician but your condition is stable, head to an urgent care facility for treatment. If symptoms worsen, go directly to a hospital emergency room.