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Home Health Library firstaid Sunburn: First aid

Sunburn: First aid

If you have been sunburned, you will notice the signs and symptoms within a few hours after too much sun. The affected skin will be painful, inflamed and hot to the touch. Blisters might develop. You may also experience headache, fever or nausea.

Seek immediate medical care if you are sunburned and experience:

  • A fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) with vomiting
  • Confusion
  • An infection in the sunburned area
  • Dehydration

If you have a sunburn

First aid might offer some relief from the discomfort of sunburn:

  • Take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) as soon as possible after getting too much sun. Or try a gel pain reliever that you rub on the skin.
  • Cool the skin. Apply to the affected skin a clean towel dampened with cool tap water. Or take a cool bath with. Add about 2 ounces (60 grams) of baking soda to the tub. Cool the skin for about 10 minutes several times a day.
  • Apply a moisturizer, lotion or gel. An aloe vera lotion or gel or calamine lotion can be soothing. Try cooling the product in the refrigerator before applying. Avoid products that contain alcohol.
  • Drink extra water for a day to help prevent dehydration.
  • Leave blisters alone. An intact blister can help the skin heal. If a blister does break, trim off the dead skin with a clean, small scissors. Gently clean the area with mild soap and water. Then apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a nonstick bandage.
  • Protect yourself from further sun exposure while your skin heals from the sunburn.
  • Apply a soothing medicated cream. For mild to moderate sunburn, apply nonprescription 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected area three times a day for three days. Try cooling the product in the refrigerator before applying.
  • Treat sunburned eyes by covering them with a clean towel dampened with cool tap water. Don't wear contacts until your eye symptoms have gone away. Don't rub your eyes.

Seek medical care for large blisters or those that form on the face, hands or genitals. Also seek medical help if you have worsening pain, headache, confusion, nausea, fever, chills, eye pain or vision changes, or signs of infection, such as blisters with swelling, pus or streaks.

Last Updated: May 21st, 2022