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What to do if you are suffering from sunburn

If you or your child has sunburn, you should get out of the sun as soon as possible – head indoors or into a shady area. You can usually treat mild sunburn at home, although there are some circumstances where you should seek medical advice (see below).

The following advice may help to relieve your symptoms until your skin heals:

  • Cool the skin by sponging it with cold water or by having a cold bath or shower – applying a cold compress such as a cold flannel to the affected area may also help.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to cool you down and prevent dehydration.
  • Apply a water-based emollient or petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) to keep your skin cool and moist.
  • Take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve any pain – aspirin should not be given to children under 16.

Try to avoid all sunlight, including through windows, by covering up the affected areas of skin until your skin has fully healed.

When to seek medical advice

You should contact your GP, attend an NHS walk-in centre, or call NHS 111 for advice if you feel unwell or have any concerns about your sunburn, particularly if you are burnt over a large area or have any of the more severe symptoms listed below.

You should also see your GP if a young child or baby has sunburn, as their skin is particularly fragile.

Signs of severe sunburn can include:

  • blistering or swelling of the skin (oedema)
  • chills
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above, or 37.5C (99.5F) or above in children under five
  • dizziness, headaches and feeling sick (symptoms of heat exhaustion)

Your GP may recommend using hydrocortisone cream for a few days (this is also available over the counter at pharmacies) to reduce the inflammation of your skin.

Severe sunburn may require special burn cream and burn dressings from your GP or a nurse at your GP surgery. Very occasionally, hospital treatment may be needed.

Content taken from NHS Choices. For more information on Sunburn, click here…


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