Tips and Tools: Tips for managing sunburn

Most people have had at least one sunburn, often during childhood. UV radiation from the sun damages the skin, leading to redness, pain, and swelling. In severe cases, it can even lead to blistering, fever, headache, and chills.

There's no quick fix for sunburn. Like any burn, it takes time to heal. ASA or acetaminophen and cold water compresses or soaks can help with symptoms. Children under 18 years of age should not use ASA, since it increases their risk of a condition called Reye's syndrome. Skin hydrating and moisturizing creams may also relieve dryness and temporarily remove pain. Butter, an old sunburn remedy, is inappropriate, as it increases the risk of infection. Anaesthetic sprays or creams should also be avoided unless recommended by a doctor. It's a good idea to stay out of the sun while the sunburn is healing.

Check with your doctor if you have a severe sunburn, a large sunburned area, or symptoms of headache, fever, or chills. If a child less than one year of age gets a sunburn, they should be taken to a doctor.

The best thing for sunburn is to avoid it completely. The advice given by public health experts on sun exposure generally boils down to this:

  • Avoid the sun completely between 10 am and 2 pm when the UV flux is greatest: 65% of all UV arrives during these hours.
  • Wear sunblock of SPF factor 15 or higher whenever you are outdoors, and reapply it every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Don't rely just on sunblock; use clothes and hats as well.
  • Don't just worry about the sun in summer - UV is a year-round problem. Snow reflects 80% of UV light, compared to only 20% by sand - that's why skiers get sunburn.

In spite of what is known about the risks of sunburn, many people still prefer the look of a "healthy" tan. However, many self-tanning products are available today that produce a healthy tan without the damaging effects of UV rays.

Learn more about Skin Care