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All about sunburn symptoms of sunburn causes of sunburn treatments for sunburns sunburn protection

What are the treatments for sunburns?

Sunburns usually heal themselves in a couple of weeks. However, depending on the severity and location of the sunburn, the following may be recommended. Always consult your physician for more information.

To alleviate pain and heat (skin is warm to the touch) caused by the sunburn, take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin. Take a pain reliever such as aspirin (children and teenagers should never be given aspirin because of the danger of Reye syndrome), acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. To rehydrate (add moisture to) the skin and help reduce swelling, apply topical moisturizing cream, aloe, or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. Stay in the shade until the sunburn is healed. Additional sun exposure will only increase the severity and pain of the sunburn. Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are useful, especially when started early.

For mild sunburn, cool compresses with equal parts of milk and water may suffice. You may also use cold compresses with Burow solution. You can buy this at a drugstore. Dissolve 1 packet in 1 pint of water. Soak gauze or a soft clean cloth in it. Gently wring out the cloth and apply to the sunburned area for 15-20 minutes. Change or refresh the cloth and solution every 2-3 hours. Anyone raised in a beach community knows the secret of aloe-based lotions. There are many commercially available types. Ask the pharmacist at your local drugstore. Tearing apart your aloe plant in the yard and applying the cool jellylike substance inside the leaves is no longer necessary. Cool (not ice cold) baths may help. Avoid bath salts, oils, and perfumes because these may produce sensitivity reactions. Avoid scrubbing the skin or shaving the skin. Use soft towels to gently dry yourself. Don’t rub. Use a light, fragrance-free skin moisturizer. Avoid lotions that contain topical anesthetic medications because you can become sensitized and then allergic to that medicine. Obviously, stay out of the sun while you are sunburned.

Silver sulfadiazine (1% cream, Thermazene) can be used for treatment of sunburn with appropriate cautions about use on the face. If your case is mild and not life threatening, the doctor may simply suggest plenty of fluids, aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Additional topical measures such as cool compresses, Burow solution soaks, or high-quality moisturizing creams and lotions may be prescribed. If your case is severe enough, oral steroid therapy (cortisonelike medications) may be prescribed for several days. Steroid creams placed on the skin show minimal to no benefit. Stronger pain-relieving medication may be prescribed in certain cases. If you have blistering, steroids may be withheld to avoid an increased risk of infection. If you are dehydrated or suffering from heat stress, IV fluids will be given, and you may be admitted to the hospital. People with very severe cases may be transferred to the hospital's burn unit.

More information on sunburn

What is sunburn? - Sunburn is a visible reaction of the skin's exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the invisible rays that are part of sunlight.
What are the symptoms of sunburn? - Sunburn results in painful, reddened skin. Severe sunburn may produce swelling and blisters. The symptoms of a sunburn may resemble other medical conditions or problems.
What causes sunburn? - Sunburn is caused by excessive exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light source. Sunburn occurs because the body is unable to make enough melanin.
What are the treatments for sunburns? - To alleviate pain and heat (skin is warm to the touch) caused by the sunburn, take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin.
How protect oneself from sunburn? - Sun-protective clothing protects skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Most people benefit from sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF) numbers of 15 or more. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005