Severe sunburn is no good news. It not only hurts but can also get very itchy or even cause a bacterial infection. You can however treat most cases at home using the treatment options, including home remedies, discussed here.
Symptoms of Severe Sunburns
For the sake of this article, we will consider severe sunburn as sunburn characterized by blistering in addition to other symptoms of sunburn, which rolls down to second-degree sunburn, but does not have any signs of sun poisoning which would then merit medical attention.
With that in mind symptoms of severe sunburn are:
- Change in skin color to red or pink
- Skin feels warm to touch
- Skin dryness
- Fluid-filled blisters
Images, Photos and Pictures of Severe Sunburns
The following pictures show patients with severe sunburn. As you can see, both pictures share one thing in common: they show blistering skin which is one of the most common symptoms of severe sunburn.
This image shows yellowish-green blisters. This indicates the presence of pus which is a common sign of bacterial infection.
Severe Sunburn Pain – Are Sunburn Painful If They Are Severe?
Pain is one of the most common symptoms of sunburn. It is usually the result of damage to skin cells. Increasing, pulsating pain may however be an indication of bacterial infection to sunburn blisters.
Pain usually responds well to treatment with home remedies such as cool soaks (to keep the skin cool), aloe vera gel or juice, and mashed potato.
Severe sunburn pain may however necessitate taking over-the-counter pain relieving medicines such as ibuprofen (sold as Advil, Motrin etc) and aspirin (Bayer). These help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation around sunburn. Aspirin should however not be given to children as it often triggers a fatal condition known as Reye’s syndrome.
Keep in mind, however, that although acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol etc) is very popular, it only relieves pain but doesn’t offer relief for inflammation.
How to Treat Severe Sunburn, Treatment or What to Do for Severe Sunburn
Sunburn causes skin damage and increase your risk of developing melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer and you should protect your skin from UV radiation at all times. But what if the worst has already happened and you have sunburn that is very severe?
Well, below is numerous severe sunburn treatment options that you may want to consider:
OTC pain relieving Medications: If necessary, take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin to take pain out of the sunburn.
1% Hydrocortisone creams: These creams contains small doses of steroids that helps to decrease inflammation when applied topically to the skin. You can buy one at your local pharmacy (drugstore) or supermarket. Just make sure that you follow the instructions carefully.
Keep in mind also that steroid creams are not recommended for use in young children unless under the instructions of your doctor. They should also not be applied to the rectal and vaginal areas.
Leave the blisters intact: With the exception of large painful blisters, most blisters are best left to heal on their own without picking, scratching, or popping them. You may also want to apply a clean, dry wound dressing on the blisters to prevent infection.
If blisters however pop accidentally, wash them with soap and water, apply some antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin, and cover them with a non stick bandage. Change the bandage frequently – once a day at the very least – to ensure it is dry and clean at all times.
Hydration: Moisturizing the skin is also beneficial. If the blisters are still intact, apply a good water based moisturizing lotions such as Cetaphil or Aquaphor. Aloe vera lotions are especially great for this purpose.
Regardless of what your grandma told you, you should never use Vaseline or any other petroleum-based product on sunburn as it can clog the pores, trap in heat, and make the sunburn worse.
In addition you will want to:
- Stay out of the sun and away from other sources of UV radiation such as tanning beds and if you have to go outdoors, take an umbrella or a wide-brimmed hat with you
- Avoid shaving of any affected area of skin or scratching it until it has healed
See your doctor if:
- More than 20 percent of the skin is blistered. As for children, seek medical attention if their entire back is sunburned
- Symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, and malaise (feeling weak) are experienced
- Signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes and extreme thirst are observed
- You experience rapid breathing or rapid pulse
Home Remedies for Severe Sunburn Remedies
Although not scientifically proven – perhaps with the exception of aloe vera – some people will swear with their life that the following home remedies help to relieve symptoms of severe sunburn and promote quicker healing:
Cool bath: This is one of those so-simple-yet-so-effective remedies that do wonders to sunburns. It helps to dissipate heat from your sunburned skin and thus soothe pain while promoting healing. This sunburn remedy is especially useful when used early on.
For baths, use cool water whose temperature has been set to just below lukewarm. Relax in the water for 15-20 minutes. Repeat several times daily to keep the skin cool.
It is advisable to avoid using soaps or other detergents as they can further irritate your skin and worsen the symptoms. If you feel you must use soap, then use one of those mild types such as Aveeno Bar, Dove and Hibiscus.
Take care with showers as they can cause some of the blisters to pop if set at very high pressure.
After bath, let your skin air-dry as opposed to rubbing it dry with a towel.
Aloe vera: Aloe vera is another fantastic remedy for sunburn that helps to soothe sunburn pain and inflammation while promoting the healing of the burn.
You can obtain fresh aloe vera juice from an aloe vera plant leaf by slitting it into two along its length or buy one of those over-the-counter aloe vera gels in a drugstore (pharmacy).
Drink plenty of water: Sunburn is often accompanied by dehydration of the skin. To counterbalance this, take plenty of water as you recover from the sunburn. At least 8 glasses of water are generally recommended in a day.
Potatoes: Potatoes are also a good remedy for sunburns that helps to alleviate pain. You should however only use this remedy if the skin has no broken blisters. Simply apply a potato paste prepared by blending several clean, peeled potatoes on the skin and wash it off after it has had time to dry on the skin.
Tea: Tea may also help to soothe symptoms of sunburn. Tea contains tannin which helps to dissipate heat from sunburned skin. Simply prepare a pot of tea using 3 to 4 teabags as you normally would, remove the tea bags and allow the tea to cool down before applying it to your skin using a small washcloth.
What Are the Best Treatment for Severe Sunburns
The question, “What is the best treatment for severe sunburn?” is one of the most common inquiries we get from our readers.
It is rather tricky to tag any one remedy as the best as the effectiveness of each varies from one patient to another depending on the underlying circumstances. Aloe vera however makes a safe bet for pain and inflammation relief.
As for itch, a baking soda or oatmeal bath will most likely offer you relief; otherwise talk to a pharmacist about 1% hydrocortisone cream.
Best Itching Severe Sunburn Relief Remedies
Sunburns often get itchy and make you want to scratch them but according to the WebMD website, this doesn’t do your skin any favor more so if it is blistering. Instead of scratching the sunburn, consider trying one or several of the following remedies.
Baking soda: Baking soda is one of the most effective itch relief remedies and would be your best bet for severe sunburn itch relief (assuming any blisters are intact).
Simply add half a cup of baking soda into bath water and relax in it for 20 minutes. Allow the skin to air-dry; that means not toweling it to dry it off after the bath.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal also does wonders to sunburn itch. Using this itch relief remedy is as easy as adding ½ cup of oatmeal powder to your bathtub and then soaking in it for 20 minutes.
Apply calamine lotion: Applying calamine lotion on the affected areas of skin also helps to relieve sunburn itching. In case of blisters apply the lotion on the surrounding area of skin.
Oral antihistamines: You can also use over-the-counter oral antihistamine drugs such as Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton can also be used to offer relief from sunburn itch. Follow the instructions provided by the pharmacist and/or on the packaging carefully.
Avoid further irritation by wearing appropriate clothing: Baggy T-shirts and loose cotton pajamas make for especially great choice of clothing. If loose-fitting clothing is not an option for you – maybe because of your job – ensure that your garments are made of cotton.
What Do You Put On Severe Sunburn
“I have a severe sunburn, what should I do?” Alicia
Well, aloe vera is one of the best remedies for burns (including sunburns) and makes for a safe bet in most cases. Keeping the skin cool (with cool baths), hydrated (moisturizing lotion) and soothed of the symptoms (e.g. pain relieving medicines such as ibuprofen) is also beneficial.
If the skin is blistered however, keep the blisters intact and take care of other symptoms such as pain, itching, and inflammation using the various options discussed throughout this article.