How to Treat Sunburn

With temperatures soaring in the UK, it feels almost inescapable that some people will fall victim to sunburn. Nearly everyone has experienced it at one time or another. Dear Doctor provides some solid advice on how to treat sunburn, whilst offering a few preventative measures.

Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. In the UK, you are most likely to get sunburnt between the months of March and October. Here, the sun’s rays are strongest from 11am to 3pm. Sunburn is unpleasant for a number of reasons. Sufferers exhibit skin that is red, swollen, tender and hot to the touch. It may even start to peel or flake after a few days. In some severe cases, blisters may form in the affected area. While sunburn is usually short lived, repeated cases can leave you at higher risk of developing skin cancer. It can also lead to premature skin ageing, i.e. wrinkles.

How to treat sunburn

While symptoms go down fairly quickly, the continuous sting of sunburn can be unpleasant to live with. The first thing you should do once you’ve realised you are burnt is to get out of the sun immediately. Mild to moderate sunburn can be treated at home. Common ways of relieving symptoms include:

  • Cooling the skin with a cold bath/shower, damp refrigerated flannel or ice
  • Applying healing lotions with aloe vera to help soothe the burn
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Taking painkillers or similar anti-inflammatory medication
  • Avoiding sunlight altogether

Severe cases of sunburn—signified by chills, blistering, bleeding, fever, nausea and dizziness—might need a different form of treatment. If you believe that your sunburn is severe, have the affected area checked out by a doctor. They may prescribe a special burn cream or burn dressing to treat it.


It can be easy to underestimate the strength of the sun, especially if there is a strong breeze. Spending time in and around water can also be misleading in regards to gauging the sun’s force. The cooling effect of the water can make it difficult to determine whether you are burning or not. With this in mind, it is always best to stay protected with a good quality sun lotion—no matter the weather. Purchase a broad-spectrum sun block that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If you are spending time in water, be extra vigilant with reapplying. When temperatures are high, seek shade or wear light clothing that covers your skin. Consider bringing a broad-rimmed hat with you when out and about in peak sunlight hours.

Generally, most people don’t apply enough sun lotion. The NHS recommends using two teaspoons worth when applying it to your head, arms and neck. They advise using two tablespoons of lotion when applying it to your whole body whilst wearing swim wear. These simple precautions should help to prevent sunburn and keep your skin safe.

If you have enjoyed learning how to treat sunburn, click here to read more on Celebrity Angels about staying healthy in summer. 

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