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What are some home remedies to relieve sunburn pain?

Overexposure to the sun can be seriously painful, but there are a number of ways to soothe the skin if you’ve been enjoying the sun a little too much.

How to treat sunburn at home
Alexi RosenfeldGetty

The summer months bring the prospect of sunny skies and warm weather, and many will be taking advantage with trips to the beach and other outdoor activities. But lounging in the sun is less enjoyable after you remember that you forgot to wear sunscreen and you’re left with painful patches of sunburn.

The CDC warns that overexposure to the sun can lead to premature aging, dermatological complaints and a heightened risk of skin cancer. However a recent study found that one in three Americans suffer from sunburn every year.

Sunburn is one of the more minor consequences of overexposure but it can be very painful if not properly dealt with. The painful patches can disrupt your sleeping pattern and make even the simplest of tasks an excruciating experience.

Fortunately the Mayo Clinic has outlined how to, and how not to, treat sunburn cases at home…

What to do if you get sunburnt

Take pain relievers – The best way to dull the pain is with a non-prescription pain relief pill, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Make sure to pay attention to the instructions to ensure you take the correct dosage.

Soothe the skin – Sunburn sufferers often feel a prickly heat on the skin for days after they are exposed. There are specific ‘after sun’ products that are designed to cool the burning sensation. Lotions and gels with aloe vera or calamine are the best options, and you can cool the product in the refrigerator before using for the ultimate effect. Alternatively, a cool bath or a dampened towel can bring similar relief.

Drink water – Hydration is a key part of health in general but it is particularly important to drink plenty of water after getting sunburnt. Your body is likely dehydrated after spending time in the sun and areas of sunburn are vulnerable to turn into painful dry skin. Try to increase your water intake to get your body back on track.

What not to do if you get sunburnt

Don’t use products that could irritate your skin – There is a temptation to try numerous products in the hope of some relief, but be careful not to overdo it. Products that contain ‘-caine’ ingredients, such as benzocaine, have been shown to cause irritation and allergic reactions in some patients.

Don’t pop blisters – Depending on the severity of your sunburn, blisters may have started to form on your skin to protect it from further damage. This is your body’s way of helping the skin below to heal, so avoid breaking the blister if at all possible. If it does burst, remove any lose skin with scissors and gently clean the area with a mild soap and water.

Don’t get sunburnt again – It’s an obvious one, but your skin is particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of a bit of sunburn and the consequences will be even more painful if it happens again in quick succession. Keep the area covered; stay in the shade; or simply remain indoors until the affected area has healed.


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