Administering simple first aid treatments as soon as possible after you get sunburned can help ease the pain and swelling associated with it. It may also be able to reduce the long-term negative effects of a sunburn, such as skin damage. The most common treatments for sunburn swelling include drinking lots of water, taking cooling baths, and using Over-The-Counter (OTC) pain medications and topical ointments. Combining these remedies often helps reduce symptoms more quickly.
Types of Sunburn
There are three degrees of sunburn severity. First and second degree burns are associated with redness and swelling, while third degree burns have fluid-filled blisters as well. It's best to avoid getting sunburned as much as possible, as it can cause skin cancer. Taking preventative measures, like avoiding being out during the hottest times of day, wearing a hat and protective clothing in the sun and the use of sunscreens, can help keep you from getting burned.
One of the most simple treatments for sunburn swelling is hydration. Like any burn, a sunburn causes a lack of moisture in the affected tissue, and it can take a few applications of water or moisturizer to get your skin back to its normal state. Taking a cool or lukewarm bath or shower to reduce the swelling and allow your skin to absorb some moisture often helps. Placing a cool, wet cloth on your skin can also alleviate the sunburn swelling. You should make sure to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to rehydrate after time in the sun.
Creams, Ointments, and Alternative Treatments
Creams or aloe vera gels can help moisturize skin and reduce swelling. You can also soak some cotton balls with witch hazel and gently rub them over your skin to cool it. To eliminate the sting of the sunburn, try placing cool, wet tea bags on top of it. Take care not to pop any blisters, and if you experience severe pain and swelling, seek medical attention.
Topical and oral OTC medications containing both painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents can help with very painful sunburn swelling. Products containing aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are popular choices, as many people find that these products provide faster relief for swelling and pain than alternative treatments. You can also try calamine lotion or a low potency corticosteroid cream, hydrocortisone, to help with any itching and burning. Make sure to read the instructions on any medications before using them, since some types can interact with certain health conditions or cause gastrointestinal problems. If in doubt, discuss things with a pharmacist or health care practitioner first.