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How To Soothe That Sunburn


By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 29 May 2020

We’ve almost all been sunburnt at some point or other. Either you missed a patch of skin with the sunblock, risked not reapplying because it wasn’t that sunny, or forgot entirely and headed out into the midday glare, bare flesh exposed to the UV rays.

You’d think the embarrassment of getting sunburnt would be punishment enough, but no, you’ve still got to cope with hot, scorched, prickly skin for days afterwards.

Prevention is always best when it comes to avoiding long term skin damage, (slather on at least SPF30, cover up, wear sunnies and spend time in the shade, particularly between 11am and 3pm), but if you’ve been caught out by the recent, blazing weather, and you’re suffering as a result, here’s how to help relieve the burn…

1. Get out of the sun

For starters, seek shade as soon as you realise you’re burnt  – chucking on more sunblock won’t reverse it, however much you wish it could. Burnt skin is not going to appreciate any further sunshine so, if you’re outside, relocate under a tree, or move indoors.

2. Wear cool, loose clothing…

Cover up in closely-woven items to ward off any further burn, and opt for cool, loosely fitting clothes, ideally a size too big, to avoid aggravating your sore skin.

3. … and a hat and sunglasses if you go back out

Invest in sunglasses with UV protection (the sun can damage your eyes too), and a big sun hat. Shade and cover are your friends now.

4. Stay hydrated

In hot weather, staying hydrated is always vital, and even more so if you’re sunburnt. Drinking lots of water will help you cool down, and should help prevent the onset of dehydration.

5. Take pain relief

You might feel silly for ending up in this position, but there’s no need to martyr through; taking painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol to take the edge off any discomfort is medically recommended.

6. Have a cool bath

Slide into a bath full of cool water, or turn the shower to cold to alleviate the burning sensation and bring your temperature down.

7. Use a damp compress

You can’t lay in a cool bath forever (this in itself can dry your skin out further), so try wearing a cool, damp t-shirt, or applying a cold compress – a tea towel dunked in cold water then draped over your back works a treat if your shoulders caught the sun.

Some people also swear by cold, damp tea bags placed on the skin. Just don’t put ice or ice packs on sunburnt skin – it can damage it, and cause more pain.

8. Apply aftersun lotion

Your local pharmacy should have a good selection of aftersun lotions available, designed to cool, soothe and help sunburnt skin begin to heal (although the cell damage is already done). Ones packed with cooling aloe vera are particularly calming.

And contact your GP if…

Your skin has blistered or become swollen, you have a very high temperature, you’re concerned you have heat stroke or heat exhaustion, or if you have a child or baby with sunburn.

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