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First Aid for Sunburn

Last updated Feb. 19, 2018

Sunburn is a reaction of the skin following an exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from any other artificial source.


What is Sunburn?

  • Sunburn is a reaction of the skin following an exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from any other artificial source
  • The condition can lead to red skin, pain, itching, and other symptoms. In many cases, Sunburns are treatable using topical creams and steroids

What are the Causes of Sunburn?

The causative factors for Sunburns could include:

  • Exposure to sun
  • Exposure to any other source of UV light (or UV radiation), such as a tanning lamps

Some individuals have a greater sensitivity to UV light than others and are hence more prone to Sunburns.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Sunburn?

The severity depends upon the amount of UV light exposure and one’s susceptibility to Sunburns. The signs and symptoms of Sunburns usually begin 6 hours after UV exposure and these include:

  • Skin redness and tenderness
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Itching which can be intense at times
  • Typical body regions affected include: Face and lips, hairless portion of the scalp, neck, arms (hand, forearm), and chest
  • Fever and chills
  • Body aches and headaches

How is First Aid administered for Sunburn?

First Aid tips for Sunburns:

  • Move away from the sun or source of UV light
  • Cool the sun burnt area under cool running water or cool water bath, NOT ice
  • Cover the blister with a sterile dressing
  • Use over-the-counter pain medication, such as tylenol or ibuprofen, for pain relief
  • Ensure tetanus shots are up-to-date
  • Do not pop or pick any blisters
  • Monitor for any signs of infection
  • Seek medical assistance on suspicion of infection

Who should administer First Aid for Sunburn?

The individual experiencing Sunburns or someone near the affected person can follow initial First Aid steps, while awaiting help from a qualified medical professional.

  • In a majority of cases of Sunburns, professional help should be sought to assess skin damage
  • However, the affected individuals can take certain self-care measures to decrease severity of the signs and symptoms

What is the Prognosis of Sunburn?

  • The prognosis of Sunburns is excellent and the individual may only have discolored skin in the sun burnt area, once the blister heals
  • Mild cases may not require the attention of a healthcare provider, but for severe cases, it is recommended that suitable healthcare assistance be sought

How can Sunburn be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Sunburns:

  • Avoid prolonged and chronic exposure to the sun; use suitable protective wear
  • Be aware of the hazards of prolonged sun exposure and take steps to protect yourself
  • Avoid excessive sunbathing, use of tanning beds, sun lamps, and chemical agents, that accelerate sun tanning
  • Keep yourself well-hydrated, if sun-exposure for prolonged periods is unavoidable

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Move away from hot the location and cool the affected area
  • Hydrate with appropriate fluids containing electrolytes
  • After initial self treatment, always seek professional help to assess extent of damage
  • In severe cases of Sunburns, seeking professional help can decrease the incidence of complications

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Jan. 7, 2016
Last updated: Feb. 19, 2018