Well Ahead Blog

Back to Well Ahead Blog

Beat the burn: What to do after too much sun

Riddle Hospital July 8, 2014 General Wellness

You were reapplying sunscreen every hour, you bought the highest SPF the drugstore had available…but you’re still going home with a sunburn. Even when you do your best to protect your skin from sunburn, it’s still possible you missed a spot or didn’t apply enough sunscreen to a particular area. Although you can’t reverse sunburn, there are ways to soothe its symptoms.

Below, Riddle Hospital dermatologist Gopal Patel, MD explains what to do if you find yourself sunburned, despite your best efforts.

Cool down

Once you’re out of the sun, take a cool shower or bath to help soothe the sunburn. If you can’t shower immediately, use a cool, wet cloth on sunburned areas.


After a cool shower, use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera on the affected area. This will make peeling and flaking less noticeable, and relieve itching. Topical steroids like hydrocortisone cream can also help prevent sunburn pain and swelling. Avoid topicals with ingredients such as petrolatum, benzocaine or lidocaine. Keep it simple.


Sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and out of the rest of your body, so it’s important to drink plenty of liquids if you’re sunburned, even if you don’t feel dehydrated. Even in the days following your sunburn, drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated as it recovers.

Lay down

Sunburn doesn’t just affect your skin. It can also cause a mild fever and headache. If you notice a headache, take a break and lie down in a cool, quiet room for awhile. Nonprescription medications like Tylenol can help relieve a fever and aspirin or ibuprofen can help reduce some of the pain associated with sunburn.

Stay out of the sun

Sunburn doesn’t heal overnight—if you have it, stay out of the sun until it clears.

Watch for serious symptoms

Pain, redness, a mild fever and headache can all be part of recovering from sunburn. But some symptoms, like these below, are cause for concern:

  • A fever of 102°F or higher
  • Sunburn blisters that cover a large part of your body
  • Severe pain
  • Chill

If you notice symptoms like these, call your doctor right away.