I watch poor sunburnt souls gingerly traipse into the pharmacy every summer here in Kansas. Most are begging for an amazing cure for their overly ripe shoulders or hypersensitive chest. Sadly, there is no magical cure for sunburns. But, there are a few things that can be done to reduce discomfort and the duration of pain.
Moisturize, inside and out.
Keep yourself hydrated from the inside. Dehydration often accompanies sunburns and makes it harder for your skin to heal. If you only do ONE thing for your sunburn, drink lots of fluids. Chug. . chug. . chug about 8-12 glasses of water per day.
Cool skin using cool damp cloths on burned areas or take frequent gentle cool showers. Numerous topical “moisturizing” sunburn products are available, but they all work on the same principle. Aloe vera gel is the most widely used and dose a fine job.
Pain, pain go away
Anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications, such as over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleeve) can reduce skin redness, swelling and pain. For temporary pain relief you may try “numbing” sprays or creams such as Solarcaine. If the pain is still uncontrolled, you should probably visit your doctor.
Protect yourself the second time around!
Be extra vigilant about your skin while it's healing. Shield sunburned skin and while it is healing - which takes about 2-4 weeks. Nothing is more damaging that burning already sensitive and newly formed skin.
When is it time to see the doctor?
- Severe pain
- Severe burn or blisters covering a large area
- High fevers, confusion, headaches
- Doesn’t respond to home treatment after several days
- Signs of skin infection: pus, streaking redness, increasing pain or swelling
Andi Neuhofel, PharmD is the Clinical Pharmacist of NeuCare Family Medicine. She provides medication-related counsel and advice to all NeuCare patients.
NeuCare Family Medicine is a paid sponsor and advertisor of Wellcommons.com and Lawrencemarketplace.com.
This blog post is not a substitute for personal medical advice. If you have any personal health concerns, please see a health care provider.