How to Overcome Severe Burns from the Sun: 13 Steps

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How to Overcome Severe Burns from the Sun: 13 Steps
How to Overcome Severe Burns from the Sun: 13 Steps

We all know that the sun's rays are harmful to the skin, but how many of us make the mistake and forget to use sunscreen? You may have experienced it several times. In fact, excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause direct damage to DNA. While short-term exposure to moderately intense sunlight can create a beautiful tan (increased skin pigmentation to protect you from ultraviolet radiation), overexposure to UV radiation is harmful to all skin types, and should be avoided to prevent skin cancer. Sun burns are painful, however, most of them are classified as 1st degree burns (the mildest classification of burns) on the surface of the skin. Sun damage is irreversible if you've been exposed to the sun and experienced it. However, you can still relieve the pain of the wound during the recovery period. Fortunately, almost all types of sunburn can be treated at home.


Part 1 of 3: Coping With Sun Burns

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 1
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 1

Step 1. Clean the burned skin area thoroughly

Use a mild soap and lukewarm/cold water.

  • You can use a cool, damp towel to apply to the area as long as you don't rub it, as this can irritate the skin. Simply place the towel gently onto the surface of the injured skin. Make sure the water temperature is not too cold, as this can have a negative effect on freshly burned skin (cooling the burnt skin to a temperature that is too cold will slow down recovery and increase the chance of frostbite on the burn).
  • If the burn is causing irritation, you can relieve it by bathing more often or soaking in cool (not too cold) water.
  • Don't dry your whole body after bathing. Leave your body slightly damp to help the wound heal.
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 2
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 2

Step 2. Consult a doctor if you have blisters on your skin

If your burn is very severe, pus-filled bubbles may appear on the surface of the skin. You should keep this area clean by washing it with running water and a mild soap. Blisters indicate a 2nd degree burn and possible infection. You should see a doctor if your skin blisters and oozes pus. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or pop the blisters on the skin if necessary.

  • Silver sulfadiazine (Thermazene, 1% cream) can be used to treat burns. This cream is an antibiotic that can help fight infection around damaged and injured skin. Do not use this medicine on the face.
  • While it may be tempting to pop bubbles on your skin, doing so carries a high risk of causing infection. The damaged layer of skin is no longer able to fight off bacterial infections effectively. So, it's best to let a doctor with sterile equipment and workspace handle it.
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 3
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 3

Step 3. Apply a cold compress

If you don't have a cold pack ready to use, simply moisten a towel with ice water and apply it to the burned skin.

Use a cold compress for 10-15 minutes several times a day

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 4
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 4

Step 4. Apply aloe vera gel to the burned skin

Aloe vera gel or a soy-based moisturizer are the best options because they can soothe the burn. Preliminary research suggests that aloe vera can help speed up the healing of burns. In a review of the available scientific literature, burns in patients treated with aloe vera healed almost 9 days faster (on average) compared to those who did not use aloe vera.

  • Generally, health practitioners recommend that aloe vera is best used on burns and minor skin irritations, but should not be applied to open wounds.
  • Look for soy-based moisturizers that list organic and natural ingredients on the label. An example is Aveenoo which is commonly available in most pharmacies. Soybean is a plant that has natural moisturizing properties and can help restore damaged skin while retaining moisture.
  • Avoid lotions or creams that contain benzocaine or lidocaine. Although used frequently in the past, these products can cause irritation and allergic reactions to the skin. Avoid using petroleum oils (or Vaseline products) as they can clog pores and trap heat in the skin, hindering its recovery.
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 5
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 5

Step 5. Keep the burnt skin clean and moist

Try to avoid strong lotions that contain fragrance, as they can exacerbate irritation.

  • Continue using aloe vera, soy moisturizer, or a gentle lotion containing oatmeal. These products are currently recommended by many doctors and will help keep the skin moist with minimal irritation so that the skin can heal naturally.
  • Continue to shower or bathe in cold water throughout the day if your skin is still burning. You can shower or bathe several times a day to keep your skin moisturized.
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 6
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 6

Step 6. Avoid the sun during the recovery period of the skin

Sun exposure can exacerbate skin damage and consequently require medical treatment. Your skin must be protected, so be sure to wear a protective layer during excessive sun or ultraviolet radiation exposure.

  • Protect skin burns with non-irritating clothing (avoid wool and cashmere, in particular).
  • There's no "best" choice of materials, however, loose, comfortable, breathable clothing (such as cotton) will keep you comfortable and protect your skin from the sun.
  • Wear a hat to protect your face from the sun's damaging UV rays. The skin on the face is very sensitive so wearing a hat to protect it is the right move.
  • When deciding on materials and protective clothing, one way is to illuminate the material with light. The most protective clothing will only manage to penetrate the least amount of light.
  • Avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is the peak time of sunburn.
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 7
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 7

Step 7. Be patient

Sunburns will heal on their own. Most of these burns will even heal on their own within a few days to a few weeks. The recovery period for a second-degree burn with blistered skin may be slightly longer, approaching 3 weeks. Proper treatment and medical assistance for second-degree burns will allow the burn to heal in the shortest possible time. Sunburns usually heal completely with minimal scarring (if any).

Part 2 of 3: Managing Pain

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 8
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 8

Step 1. Take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed

Follow the dosage recommendations on the packaging.

  • Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter pain reliever that can help relieve inflammation, redness, and pain. In the case of sunburn, ibuprofen is generally used by adults at a dose of 400 mg every 6 hours in the short term. Follow the doctor's advice or the instructions on the medicine package. Children under 6 years of age should not use ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • Naproxen. Your doctor may prescribe this medication if ibuprofen doesn't work for you. The advantage is that the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects last longer after they occur. Naproxen can be purchased without a prescription, for example Aleve.

    Naproxen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and can cause stomach pain

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 9
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 9

Step 2. Use vinegar for pain relief

The acetic acid in vinegar can relieve pain, itching, and inflammation. Pour a cup of white vinegar into a tub of lukewarm water, then soak in it. Alternatively, apply a cotton swab moistened with vinegar to the area of the wound that hurts the most. Just dab it, don't rub it. Do not let the outer edges of the burn extend.

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 10
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 10

Step 3. Apply witch hazel to the burn

Wet a washcloth or gauze with this anti-inflammatory astringent and apply it to the surface of the skin 3 or 4 times a day for 20 minutes to reduce itching and pain.

There are very few side effects of witch hazel, and it is safe to use for children

Part 3 of 3: Understanding the Dangers of Sun Burns

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 11
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 11

Step 1. See a doctor if you suspect you have sun poisoning

Sun poisoning is a term to describe severe burns and reactions to UV light (photodermatitis). Seek immediate medical attention if your skin is blistered, the burn is very painful, accompanied by fever, severe thirst, or fatigue. These symptoms may signal a more serious medical condition. There may be a genetic sensitivity that causes it. In addition, metabolic problems can be caused by a deficiency of niacin or vitamin B3. Common symptoms and treatments are described in this article, but symptoms of burns that are very severe and require medical attention include:

  • Blistered skin. Parts of the skin that are exposed to direct sunlight may feel itchy and swollen.
  • Rash. In addition to blisters or blisters, rashes that may or may not itch are also common. This rash is similar to eczema.
  • Swelling. Parts of the skin that are exposed to direct sunlight may feel sore and red.
  • Nausea, fever, headache and chills. These symptoms can result from a combination of photosensitivity and exposure to heat.
  • If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately so that the severity of your burn can be assessed.
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 12
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 12

Step 2. Watch out for skin cancer

The two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are directly related to sun exposure. This cancer attacks mainly the face, ears, and hands. A person's risk of melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer) is doubled if he has had 5 or more burns. More importantly, if you have a severe burn, you are at a higher risk of melanoma.

Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 13
Treat a Severe Sunburn Step 13

Step 3. Watch out for heatstroke

Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its temperature, and as a result, the body temperature rises. Exposure to the sun can cause severe burns and heatstroke, so many people with severe burns are also at risk of heatstroke. The main signs of heatstroke include:

  • Hot, dry and reddened skin
  • Fast and strong pulse
  • Extreme body temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting


  • Avoid direct sun exposure to injured skin until it heals.
  • Do not use ice to treat burns, as this can further damage sensitive skin. Always use cold running water to stop the skin burning process.
  • Sometimes, it can take up to 48 hours for the burn to appear completely.
  • Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with an SPF of 30 or higher. Remember to reapply sunscreen after sweating or getting in the water.

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