Health Advice



Sunburn treatment: What works?

Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

Great summer days are full of relaxation, fun and plenty of sunshine. Unfortunately, spending too much time in the sun can lead to a sunburn. Your skin may be inflamed, painful and feel hot to the touch.

Any exposed part of the body, including your lips, earlobes and scalp, can burn. The symptoms of sunburn usually appear a few hours after sun exposure.

Unfortunately, there's no fast fix to soothe a sunburn. Once you have sunburn, the damage is done. After a few days, your body will begin to heal by peeling off the damaged skin's top layer. A bad burn can take several days to heal.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to treat sunburn and ease your discomfort:

Keep skin cool and moist.

Apply cold compresses, such as a towel dampened with cool water, to the affected skin several times a day. Or take a cool bath with baking soda. Apply aloe vera lotion, moisturizing cream or a nonprescription 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected skin several times a day. Try cooling the product in the refrigerator before applying for extra-soothing comfort. Avoid products containing alcohol, which can further dry out skin.


Avoid products that contain benzocaine.

Beware of sunburn treatment products containing anesthetics, such as benzocaine. There's little evidence that these products are effective. In some cases, they can irritate the skin. Benzocaine has been linked to a rare but serious, and sometimes deadly, condition that decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. Don't use benzocaine on children younger than age 2 without supervision from a health care professional, as this age group has been most affected. If you're an adult, never use more than the recommended dose of benzocaine, and consider talking with your health care professional.

Leave blisters alone.

If blisters form, don't break them. Doing so only slows the healing process and increases the risk of infection. If needed, lightly cover blisters with gauze.


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