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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Sunburn - 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.

  • A small, unbroken blister about the size of a pea, even a blood blister, will usually heal on its own. Use a loose bandage to protect it. Avoid the activity that caused the blister.
  • If a small blister is on a weight-bearing area like the bottom of the foot, protect it with a doughnut-shaped moleskin padcamera.gif. Leave the area over the blister open.
  • If a blister is large and painful, it may be best to drain it. Here is a safe method:
    • Wipe a needle or straight pin with rubbing alcohol.
    • Gently puncture the edge of the blister.
    • Press the fluid in the blister toward the hole so it can drain out.
    • If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you do not want to drain a blister because of the risk of infection.
  • After you have opened a blister, or if it has torn open:
    • Wash the area with soap and water. Do not use alcohol, iodine, or any other cleanser.
    • Don't remove the flap of skin over a blister unless it's very dirty or torn or there is pus under it. Gently smooth the flap over the tender skin.
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment and a clean bandage. If the skin under the bandage begins to itch or a rash develops, stop using the ointment. The ointment may be causing a skin reaction.
    • Change the bandage once a day or anytime it gets wet or dirty. Remove it at night to let the area dry.

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.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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