How to treat sunburn

Woman's sunburned shoulders with "help" written in sunscreen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) The hot, sunny days of summer are here and while we love getting outside to enjoy the weather, we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones from skin exposure.

Dr. Mary Yurko, Pediatric Dermatologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, says sunburn takes time to develop, typically 15 to 24 hours after exposure. So what can you do if you realize that you have had too much sun?

  1. Get out of the sun, now! Go indoors if you can, otherwise get in the shade and cover up.
  1. Cool down your skin. Frequent cool showers or baths (pat dry, don’t rub), or cool compresses can provide some immediate relief for sunburned skin. If you feel warm, turn up the air conditioning or turn on a fan.
  1. While the skin is still damp, apply a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin. Try refrigerating it for an even cooler feeling. Topical 1% hydrocortisone cream OTC (over-the-counter) may help relieve sunburn pain, itching, and swelling. If your lips are sunburned, apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or Aquaphor – otherwise avoid ointments since they may trap in the heat.
  1. Take an OTC pain reliever; these are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or aspirin to reduce the sunburn’s pain and inflammation.
  1. Rehydrate by drinking extra fluids, including water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes. Burns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body so you may become dehydrated.
  1. If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal on their own; don’t pick or peel or scratch. This could lead to an infection.
  1. Seek medical help if you your child has severe blistering over a large portion of the body, has fever or chills, or feels woozy or confused.

A sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer and premature aging changes (think freckles now and wrinkles later). The best way is to avoid sunburns by limiting your time in the sun, wearing protective clothing and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30, using an adequate amount a reapplying every two hours.

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