How to Get Rid of a Sunburn Fast

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A man with a severe sunburn.
A man with a severe sunburn. (Image: Gajus/iStock/Getty Images)

Many people enjoy basking in the warm, soothing sun, and the added bonus of a suntan can be an extra incentive to soaking up the sun's rays. Get too much sun, however, and a healthy glowing tan can turn into a peeling and painful sunburn. While there is no clinically proven way to get rid of a sunburn, you can do things to ease the discomfort until your body heals itself.

Stay Out of the Sun

The last thing you want to do when you have a sunburn is expose your skin to more of the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. This worsens the pain and causes additional sun damage, and it does not allow your skin the needed time to heal properly. So stay out of the sun -- and that goes for tanning beds too.

Apply Topical Remedies

Aloe vera, while not clinically proven to heal burns, has been a traditional topical agent for burn wounds and treatment. Other ways to relieve the pain include cool compresses, soaking in a tub of cool bath water and calamine lotion. You can try emollients such as liquid paraffin/white soft paraffin 50/50 as well -- but only on intact skin. If the sunburn is severe and you have blisters that rupture, clean the skin with a mild soap and water, and cover the area with a wet dressing, such as salt water or gauze applied with petroleum jelly. Finally, topical diclofenac gel, which requires a prescription, can help relieve the pain associated with sunburn.

Try Oral Medication

If topical remedies don't relieve your sunburn pain and swelling, you might need an oral medication. Some people get relief from over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, but if the pain is severe enough that you require medication, consider contacting your doctor. In addition, the doctor may be able to tailor a regimen that's safest and most effective for you.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Most sunburns heal quickly on their own, but occasionally it's appropriate to seek medical attention for a sunburn. If you experience complications like severe blistering, severe pain or other symptoms such as headache, vomiting, dehydration or fever you may require IV fluids or sometimes even IV pain medications and should go to the hospital. Alternatively, the doctor might recommend topical treatments, such as silver sulfadiazine or mupirocin ointment to decrease the chances of developing an infection of the affected skin.

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