Sunburn and Sun Poisoning (cont.)

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Are there any home remedies to treat sunburn?

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There are some simple measures that can be applied at home to help with sunburns. The easiest and most important remedy to sunburn is using effective preventative measures to avoid sunburn. These steps include:

  • Do not spend too much time in the sun, especially in direct sunlight in the middle of the day.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, hats with a large brim, and use sunscreen.
  • Drink water to keep hydrated while spending time in the sun.

Once sunburn occurs, there are sunburn remedies that can help with treating sunburn symptoms. These include:

  • Apply dampened cloths or compresses to reduce the heat and lessen the pain
  • Soak in a bathtub of plain, soap-free water (soap can irritate the burn).
  • Gently pat the skin dry afterward - do not rub it
  • Apply a soothing cream, lotion, or another preparation approved by a physician or pharmacist
    • Some preparations, in particular those containing benzocaine (Endocaine, Hurricaine), can trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals, and certain ointments can retard healing by sealing off the skin from the air.
  • If the discomfort is significant, take an OTC painkiller such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
  • These medications also can be used to treat headache associated with sunburn. Headache may be caused by dehydration. Drinking plenty of fluids (no caffeine or alcohol) is one way to prevent dehydration while out in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
  • Moisturizing measures with creams or Aloe Vera gel may also help with symptoms of sunburn.

If blisters form after sunburn, do not attempt to burst or "pop" them unless they are located in a very painful area, or are otherwise causing a lot of discomfort due to size. Most blisters will break by themselves if they are left alone. Blisters are better left uncovered as rubbing or placing a tight cover over them may cause infections and more discomfort. If blisters need to be covered because they cause discomfort by rubbing on clothes, they should be covered by a loosely applied dressing.

Once a sunburn blister breaks, the area of the broken blister should be kept clean by washing it frequently with soap and water. The left over skin should be left alone, but cleaned, until it falls off. Broken blisters generally heal on their own, but they are susceptible to infections. Topical antibiotic ointments can be applied to the area of broken blisters to prevent infections.

If a sun blister is uncomfortable or too large or located in a cosmetically unappealing area, consider breaking it carefully. This could be done by gently cleaning the area well with soap and water or rubbing alcohol and using a sterilized needle to punch a hole at the edge of the blister gently. The fluid inside can be pushed towards the hole and drained. The area should be cleaned again and covered with a loose dressing afterwards. Topical antibiotics can be applied to the broken blister also in order to reduce the risk of infection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2012

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Sunburn - Experience Question: Have you ever experienced a really bad sunburn? What was it like?
Sunburn - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your sunburn?
Sunburn - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your sunburn?
Sunburn - Home Remedies Question: Please share home remedies for treating a sunburn.
Sunburn (Sun Poisoning) - Applying Sunscreen Question: Share tips for applying sunscreen, including how to remember to apply it after swimming.

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