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Sunburn Treatment For Quick Relief

We have all been there; We spend too much time in the sun without proper protection. Then, hours later, our skin is red, sore, and hot to the touch. 

If this sounds familiar, you might wonder how to make a sunburn go away fast or you might find yourself desperately searching online for how to get rid of a sunburn. In this article, we explore the best suncare, the sunburn severity chart, and what you can do to ease your pain and discomfort as quickly as possible.

Sunburn diagnosis

Surprisingly, it is entirely possible to get sunburned on cloudy or windy days. However, for the most part, we can self-diagnose sunburns, even if it was not a particularly sunny day. If our skin is bright red and warm after spending time outside, it is likely we accidentally got burned.

However, a doctor may also provide a diagnosis by performing a physical exam. This may be necessary if there are concerns about a skin reaction or sun allergy (more about when to see a doctor regarding your sunburn below). Yet, most mild to moderate sunburns do not require doctor intervention and can easily be healed with home remedies, like aloe vera gel and pain relievers.

How to treat sunburn for quick relief 

Cut out sun exposure 

The initial and best sunburn relief strategy is getting out of the sun as quickly as possible. Staying in the sun, particularly without sun protection, can lead to a more severe and painful burn. From there, you can treat your sunburned skin by doing the following.

Bring down your skin’s temperature 

For quick sunburn relief, aim to bring your skin temperature down. Due to excess fluids in the affected area and swelling, the skin often becomes warm or hot to the touch. This may mean applying a cold compress or taking a cold shower can help you find relief. In turn, this reduces inflammation and pain. However, do not spend too long in the shower as this can actually dry out your skin and lead to increased odds of peeling skin within the new few days. 

Sunburn gel 

After cooling down your skin, apply a moisturiser, gel, or lotion to the sunburned areas. Aloe vera is commonly used, with many claiming it is the best sunburn relief, as it soothes, moisturises, and cools down the skin. If you have pain associated with your sunburn, you may also want to consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers

Drink plenty of water

glass of waterglass of water

Lastly, make sure to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water. Our skin, particularly the top layer of skin cells, usually helps maintain hydration, but when sun damage occurs, it is unable to do its job as effectively. 

Itchy sunburn relief

If you are dealing with an itchy sunburn, taking anti-itch drugs might help. For instance, oral antihistamines may help you find relief for an itchy sunburn. If you have sunburn blisters or peeling, it is also important to not pick at it or pop the blisters as this can lead to further issues, such as increased itchiness and infection.

When it comes to how to stop sunburn peeling, sometimes, nature simply needs to run its course. However, making sure you stay properly moisturised and hydrated, such as by using Bio-Oil or Sudocrem, may help reduce skin peeling and other symptoms.

Sunburn Severity Chart 

Surprisingly, there are various levels of sunburn. Most commonly, we experience a first-degree sunburn where the skin becomes dry, red, tender, and painful. It also may eventually lead to peeling.

A second-degree sunburn impacts the two most superficial layers of the skin and is where blisters may appear. In some cases, individuals may also feel nauseous and dehydrated. 

A third-degree and fourth-degree sunburn typically require medical intervention, as explored in the section below.

When to see a doctor about your sunburn

For extreme sunburn relief, such as when big blisters form or the skin begins to turn purple, medical intervention is highly recommended. Symptoms that may arise and signal that professional medical help is needed further include chills, headaches, and fever. In the case of a fourth-degree sunburn, the skin may even turn white, black or grey, as well as have little to no sensation.

In the case of a severe sunburn, you may need to be admitted to a hospital for adequate sunburn treatment and for the management of other potentially life-threatening symptoms, like dehydration and nerve damage.

Sunburn treatment for children  

For relief for children sunburns, you can use similar sunburn treatment strategies as per the above. Yet, for children less than one year of age, you should treat a sunburn as a medical emergency. For children over one year of age, contact your doctor if your child experiences extreme fatigue, fever, blisters, or severe pain.

Similar to sunburn treatment for adults, make sure to provide your child with plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated. From there, the best relief for any sunburn involves cooling down the skin, applying moisturiser, and staying out of the sun. 

Luckily, children tend to have a much faster healing process when compared to adults, which means, most often, your child will bounce back fairly quickly!

How to treat sunburn overnight?  

If you are on a beach holiday or planned to spend more time in the sun, you might wonder how to get rid of sunburn redness overnight. Does a sunburn turn into a tan that quickly? 

For very mild sunburns, they may disappear overnight. Yet, most tend to last at least a couple of days. The best you can do is get out of the sun quickly, cool down the skin, stay hydrated, and keep your skin moisturised. Hydrocortisone creams, in some cases, may also help quickly reduce inflammation and redness.

With a fresh sunburn, you do not want to risk getting another one, especially since sunburn damage accumulates over time. The best way to enjoy the rest of your holidays or time in the sun is by ensuring you apply sunscreen and reduce your risk of a sunburn by limiting sun exposure, such as by wearing a hat, long sleeves, or using an umbrella.

In terms of sunburns turning into tans, most will fade and the affected area will often appear darker. Yet, it is important to note that tanning is also a form of skin damage. At the same time, tans that gradually build up over the warmer months often aren’t anything to worry about.

How long does a sunburn last? 

In most cases and with proper treatment, a mild sunburn fully subsides within seven days. More severe sunburns may last longer and very mild sunburns may clear up within a day or two. Typically, the worst symptoms of a sunburn arise within 24 to 36 hours, with initial symptoms appearing within minutes to hours of sun exposure. 

Skin cancer and sunburn 

Research indicates that the risk of skin cancer increases with higher frequency of sunburns. While skin cancer from a sunburn is more likely, sometimes, sun exposure without adequate protection is enough to increase your risk.

Melanoma, in particular, is a type of skin cancer that is more likely to happen with repeated sunburns, which is why it is important to prioritise proper sun protection. However, sun exposure and sunburns are not the only risk factors involved in the development of melanoma. 

Other risk factors include genetics, having moles on the skin, having a previous skin cancer diagnosis, and indoor tanning. If you have concerns regarding any changes in your skin, it is important to seek out the care and consultation of a board-certified dermatologist who can perform a proper assessment.

Sunburn FAQS 

For more regarding sunburn treatment, review our frequently asked questions below. 

How to sleep with a sunburn 

If you experience sunburn peeling and increased warmth of the skin, it can prove difficult to get a good night’s rest. You might find your skin feels itchy or you feel entirely too hot, then too cold. While you might not experience the best sleep of your life, you can set yourself up for success by having a cold shower, applying aloe vera, taking pain relievers, limiting friction on the skin, and using moisturiser before bed.

Are there different levels of sunburn? 

Yes, we can experience very mild sunburns that can easily be treated at home, as well as very severe and life-threatening sunburns. The sunburn severity chart, as discussed above, rates sunburns on a scale of one to four, with one being the most mild sunburn and four being the most severe type of sunburn.

How to treat sunburned lips? 

Sunburned lips can feel dry and sore. The best way to treat sunburned lips is by using lip moisturisers. If your lips are very sore, you may also find comfort in a cold compress. As previously mentioned regarding sunburn treatment, the best method is prevention. Preventing sunburned lips with proper SPF protection can save you pain and discomfort later on.

McCauleys is a progressive pharmacy that is here to help you embrace a holistic approach to your health and wellness. With proper suncare and protection from McCauleys, you can enjoy any day in the sun, without the pain or worry of a sunburn.