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Tips for treating a sunburn

How to treat a sunburn

With summer right around the corner, the sun is getting stronger each day.

We’ve discussed sun safety and even shared our favorite sunscreens for runners on this blog before but burns can still happen. And when they do, it can be rough.

So while the first step is prevention, here’s how to treat a sunburn:

  1. Take a cool shower. Cooling off with a shower will help soothe your skin and offer some temporary relief. Just make sure you gently pat yourself dry afterwards with a towel – rubbing your skin will only irritate the sunburn.
  2. Apply a moisturizer. While your skin is still damp, cover the sunburned area with a moisturizer to keep the skin from drying out further. Choose a cream that contains aloe vera or soy for added soothing properties. Avoid any moisturizers that are made with harsh chemicals because they can aggravate your skin. If your burn is really bad, consider applying an over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream, too.
  3. Drink up. It’s common to have a headache and feel extra thirsty after spending a day in the sun. That’s because you need extra water when you’re out in the heat. If you get sunburned, you’ll likely be even more dehydrated because the burn pulls water from other parts of your body to try to hydrate your skin. Take in water and sports drinks as soon as you realize you’re burned. Drink extra fluids for the next few days.
  4. Use cool compresses and other natural pain relievers. Soak a wash rag in cold water and apply it to sunburned skin several times per day. These natural pain remedies may feel good on the burned area, too:
    • Cucumbers: The antioxidants in cucumbers help to ease swelling and pain. Slice a cucumber and place the rounds to burned skin. Or mash the vegetable into a paste and gently apply it to your skin.
    • Aloe vera plant. People have turned to the aloe vera plant for thousands of years to treat burns and other skin wounds. Cut the leaf of an aloe vera plant length wise and squeeze the gel out. Apply the cool gel directly to burned skin.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar – or ACV – has many benefits, including sunburn relief. Wet a washcloth then splash on some ACV. Place the washcloth directly on your sunburn for 2-3 minutes; the ACV will help relieve the stinging and burning. You can then follow up the ACV with a good lathering of coconut oil, another natural remedy.
  5. Consider OTC pain medicine. If natural remedies aren’t giving you enough relief, try an OTC pain medication. Read the label carefully and take the correct dose.
  6. Know when to seek medical help. If you feel sick after a sunburn, and you have a fever and chills, call your doctor. Also seek medical help if your burn is severe or if you have blisters that cover more than one-fifth of your body.

Written by Jen Matz.

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