How to Care for Sunburned Skin

Sunburned skin can occur after only 15 minutes of sun exposure, says "Kids Health." Sunburns are not only painful, but can cause fine lines, wrinkles and skin cancer. To protect yourself from sunburns and harmful UV rays, slather your skin with sunscreen every time you go outside, instead of just when you go to the beach or the pool. In most cases, a sunburn does not require a doctor's care and can be treated at home 1. If sunburn accompanies other symptoms, like a fever, consult a doctor.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Taking pain medication, like over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain, swelling and redness associated with sunburn. Take every four hours, or as directed on the medication's label.

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Apply hydrocortisone cream to the skin, such as 0.5 percent to 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. This is available over-the-counter, and can help reduce the swelling, pain and itchiness of a sunburn. Slather the cream on your skin as needed throughout the day.

Place cool compresses on the sunburned area, recommends "Kids Health." Rinse a clean washcloth in cool water, and apply directly to the afflicted area. As the sunburned skin warms the compress, rinse the cool compress in water again and reapply it.

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Drink more water. The moisture in your body will help repair your sunburned skin, which can make you dehydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to help prevent dehydration.


Rub fresh aloe vera gel on skin as needed to help cool and hydrate sunburned skin. Contact a doctor if your sunburn is accompanied by any other symptoms such as faintness, a fever, confusion or severe pain. Your doctor can provide a prescription-strength hydrocortisone cream to prevent pain or intravenous fluids to reduce dehydration.


Do not pop any blisters that form on the skin.