(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorWe’ve all done it — spent a little too much time, with too little sunscreen, or other protection, under the scorching rays of the sun.

And since the skin reaction takes hours to develop, we don’t realize we are overcooked until its much too late. Then … comes days of pain.

So what are the do’s and dont’s of treating a sunburn?

The first thing to keep in mind is the word itself. Sunburn. It is a burn, and the basic first aid principles apply to an attack by the sun as getting nailed by hot water.

You want to cool things off. Remember. Burns love cool.

So, cool compresses. No ice, just cool. Not only will it feel good, it’ll lessen the damage of the burn by lowering the temperature a few layers down in that old dermis. Your mom was right: a cool compress fixes a lot of things, including a sunburn.

Drink a lot of water — sunburn is dehydrating. It always is.

Aloe gel may help. Key word here is gel — no ointments. Chilled aloe gel is best.

Ibuprofen early after sun exposure may help. It can lessen the inflammation and damage to the skin cells and the layers below. As always, follow directions.


Don’t apply ointment. Ointment is thick, gooey, and occlusive. In other words, it holds the heat in.

Once again, no ice.

Third, no burn creams or ointments, especially they contain a “caine” product. Many people react to the “caines” (As in “benzocaine”.)

Feel nauseous — see your doctor.

Feel sick or flu-like — see your doctor.

Get skin blisters — see your doctor.

Run a fever- see your doctor.

Don’t feel better a day or two after your encounter with the sun — see your doctor.

So you can see, the advice is pretty basic — but that’s really all you need here, It is common sense: cool things down and hydrate.

I’m not even going to end all this on the importance of prevention: get a bad burn once, and your memory will automatically get better when it comes to remembering sunscreen the next time you and the sun have a meet-up.


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