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Soothe serious sunburn - treatment options

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
7 June 2013

Keep covered

The last thing you need when you’re burnt is to burn more, so keep out of the sun where possible and when you are out cover up in long-sleeves and trousers. Try linen, which is light enough to stop you overheating but gives you protection from the sun’s rays.

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Cool it down

As with any burn, sunburnt skin feels hot to the touch and cooling it down is important to relieve the pain. You can buy over-the-counter cooling compresses, or make your own with a mixture of cold water and milk. Soak a clean, very soft cloth and press it onto the area every 15 minutes. You can also bath or shower in lukewarm water or try pouring this over the area.

As well as putting water on the burn topically, make sure you’re keeping your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Don’t drink alcohol as this will dehydrate you and dry out your skin even more.

Once you’ve cooled the area, there are plenty of after-sun balms and lotions that can help soothe the pain and moisturise the skin. Pure aloe vera or gels containing it work well, as does calamine lotion, which can help with itching.

[Related article: Bad news - why a tan won't stop you burning]


If it’s really painful, try oral painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. You can also try a one per cent hydrocortisone cream, which is sometimes used for eczema and dry skin. Rubbing this directly onto the sunburn can calm irritation and inflammation. This should not be used on children under the age of two, on the face or genitals or if you broken the skin. A natural alternative would be honey, specifically manuka honey, which is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and is thought to help the skin regrow cells.

When to go to A&E

Very serious burns may need emergency medical treatment. If it’s a baby or child, it’s best to get them checked out as their skin is far more delicate than ours. On adults, if the skin has blistered or you feel dizzy, nauseous or have a fever, head straight to A&E.

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