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How to Treat A Sunburn
Knowing how to treat a sunburn is the second most important thing you should know about sunburns.
Knowing how to prevent a sunburn is even more important!
A sunburn can turn a wonderful day at the beach ...
... into a miserable evening.
Even a mild sunburn is painful - and a severe sunburn can be excruciating!
Symptoms of Mild Sunburn
A mild sunburn is actually a first degree burn.
I'm sure you don't need me to tell you the symptoms of sunburn! As you
know, after spending too much time in the sun, you will have
- red skin that is
- warm to the touch and that
- hurts, with
- no blisters or open wounds.
Here's what my leg looked like after a day by the lake. As you can see, I was wearing short socks, and no sunscreen.
Symptoms of Severe Sunburn
An extreme sunburn is a second degree burn. As well as the redness and heat, there will be
- blisters, similar to the friction blisters you get from wearing poorly-fitting shoes
- intense pain
How to Treat a Sunburn
Here are the basics on how to treat a sunburn:
- Keep the burned area clean.
- Drink plenty of water, since a burn draws fluid to the surface of the body and away from the vital organs.
To relieve pain, apply any of these:
- cool compresses
- a paste of baking soda and water
- calamine lotion
- aloe vera gel - either straight from the plant or from a bottle (Read the label! I prefer 100% aloe vera gel. Some products are mostly chemicals with just a dab of aloe gel.)
Here's my son after a full day in the lake. I applied sunscreen
thoroughly in the morning, but neglected to reapply it soon enough. He
was very sore that evening and night - and all the next day!
If you have a severe sunburn, you'll need to take extra care. Here's how to treat a sunburn that is serious:
- Keep the area clean.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Apply the pain relieving remedies listed above.
- Watch for signs of infection.
- Do not break sunburn blisters. The skin of a blister
provides a sterile covering that protects the body from infection. Cover
the blisters if necessary to keep them intact. Read about first aid for blisters here.
Seek medical attention if the patient
- doesn't begin to improve after a few days
- has severe blisters over most of the body
- develops a high fever
- has chills, fever or nausea
- becomes delirious
- has unbearable pain
Home remedies for sunburn
The goal of any remedy is to relieve pain while the burn heals. Here are some interesting home remedies:
- apple cider vinegar
- fresh cucumber slices
- grated potato
- cold tea bags
- oatmeal mixed with egg whites
(Please note that I haven't tried any of these, and I'm not
making a recommendation! Use your own common sense, and check with your
doctor if you are unsure about how to treat a sunburn.)
Preventing a sunburn is much easier than treating a sunburn!
Click here to learn about how to apply sunscreen, and for other strategies for preventing sunburn.
Now that you know how to treat a sunburn, click here to review more first aid skills you may need while camping.
Click here to return to the Complete Family Camping Guide home page.