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Sunburn treatment: Learn how to feel better

From the staff at Atlantic General Hospital

Everyone should wear sunscreen, but we’ve all had a day where we end up with red, tender skin—the result of overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light. In short, a sunburn.

But you don’t have to suffer through it. Here are a few tips for treating this painful skin condition.

Get indoors

A sunburn usually shows up in the first 6 to 12 hours after exposure, and the worst part of it will probably be within the first 24 hours. Take extra care to stay out of the sun, and wear loose cotton clothing as your skin recovers, and drink plenty of water.

Give your skin some TLC

To relieve your discomfort, try putting a cold, damp towel on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day to take the heat out of your skin. Cool showers or baths are also helpful.

As for a soothing lotion, use moisturizers with aloe vera or soy. Creams with vitamins C and E may help limit skin cell damage, and cortisone creams may reduce inflammation. But make sure your lotion doesn’t have petroleum, which traps heat in your skin, or benzocaine or lidocaine, which can irritate skin.

Take a pain reliever

If your sunburn really hurts, try taking some ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help relieve the pain. However, don’t give aspirin to a child with sunburn, and check with your doctor if you have any concern about the effects of a medication.

Call the doctor

If you or your child gets blisters or has a fever, chills, headache or dizziness, seek medical attention. A severe sunburn should be treated like any serious burn and could require hospitalization. Also, blisters sometimes get infected and require antibiotics.

Know the risks

It’s important to remember that sunlamps can cause severe sunburn. And the sun’s reflection off water, sand or snow can make its rays stronger. Some medicines, like the antibiotic doxycycline, and medical conditions, like lupus, can make your skin even more sensitive.

And finally, the best tip: Don’t let sunburn happen again. Keep in mind that no matter how dark your skin is, anyone can get a sunburn. But those with fair skin, as well as infants and children, are more sensitive to the sun’s rays.

Want more tips to prevent sunburn? Check out the advice in this infographic.

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