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Sunburn (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Home treatment measures may provide some relief from a mild sunburn.

  • Use cool cloths on sunburned areas.
  • Take frequent cool showers or baths.
  • Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera to sunburned areas. Topical steroids (such as 1% hydrocortisone cream) may also help with sunburn pain and swelling. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.

A sunburn can cause a mild fever and a headache. Lie down in a cool, quiet room to relieve the headache. A headache may be caused by dehydration, so drinking fluids may help. For more information, see the topic Dehydration.

There is little you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn—it is part of the healing process. Lotion may help relieve the itching.

Other home treatment measures, such as chamomile, may help relieve your sunburn symptoms.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Care of blisters

Home treatment may help decrease pain, prevent infection, and help the skin heal.

Small, unbroken blisters [less than 1 in. (2.5 cm) across] usually heal on their own.

  • Do not try to break the blisters. Just leave them alone.
  • Do not cover the blisters unless something such as clothing is rubbing against them. If you do cover them, apply a loose bandage. Secure the bandage so the tape does not touch the blisters. Do not wrap tape completely around a hand, arm, foot, or leg, because it could cut off the blood supply if the limb swells. If the tape is too tight, you may develop symptoms below the level of the tape, such as numbness, tingling, pain, or cool and pale or swollen skin.
  • Avoid wearing clothes or shoes or doing activities that rub or irritate the blisters until they have healed.

Large or broken blisters usually heal without problems. Most large blisters will break on their own and then heal.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching blisters. Blisters can easily become infected.
  • If you have a large blister, you may want to drain it, depending on where it is. If you decide to drain it:
    • Clean a needle with rubbing alcohol or soap and water, then use it to gently puncture the edge of the blister.
    • Press the fluid in the blister toward the hole you made.
    • Wash the blister after you have drained it, and pat it dry with clean gauze.
  • Do not remove the flap of skin covering the blister unless it tears or gets dirty or pus forms under it. If the blister has just a small puncture or break, leave the flap of skin on, and gently smooth it flat over the tender skin underneath.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment, such as polymyxin B or bacitracin, if you are not allergic to it. The ointment will prevent the bandage from sticking to the blister and may help prevent infection. Do not use alcohol or iodine on the blister, because these may delay healing. Do not use an ointment if you know you are allergic to it.
  • Loosely apply a bandage or gauze. Secure the bandage so the tape does not touch the blister. Do not wrap tape completely around a hand, arm, foot, or leg, because it could cut off the blood supply if the limb swells. If the tape is too tight, you may develop numbness, tingling, pain, or cool and pale or swollen skin below the level of the tape.
  • If the skin under the bandage begins to itch or develops a rash, stop using the antibiotic ointment.
  • Change the bandage every day and anytime it gets wet or dirty. You can soak the bandage in cool water just before removing it to make it less painful to take off.
  • Avoid wearing clothes or shoes or doing activities that rub or irritate the blisters until they have healed.

Watch for a skin infection while your blister is healing. Signs of infection include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the blister.
  • Red streaks extending away from the blister.
  • Drainage of pus from the blister.
  • Fever.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Vision problems continue after you get out of the sun.
  • Fever develops.
  • Dehydration develops and you are unable to drink enough to replace lost fluids.
  • Signs of skin infection in blisters develop.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction develop.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
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