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It’s important to avoid sunburn, which is a sign of serious ultraviolet injury to the skin. Sunburn increases the risk of melanoma, and can also lead to permanent photo-aging of the skin. But we’ve all had sunburn from time to time. So what should you do if it occurs?
Firstly avoid further UV injury by completely avoiding sunlight either direct, through the clouds or even through a window. If you go outside cover the area with clothing that is tightly woven enough to block light—try holding the item of clothing up to the light and choose clothing that does not allow light through and avoid loosely woven fabric such as thin linen garments.
Take cool showers or baths regularly to reduce discomfort and avoid washing the area with any soap or shower gels which can dry the skin. Applying cold flannels may also be soothing.
Apply a simple soothing moisturiser, perhaps containing aloe vera, and try keeping the moisturiser in the fridge.
Consider taking ibuprofen and paracetamol for pain relief.
Drink plenty of fluid to stay hydrated—you should be peeing regularly and your urine should be a light colour.
If you have any steroid creams such as hydrocortisone (available over the counter) or something stronger then applying this may reduce inflammation. If you develop blisters leave them alone and avoid bursting them to reduce the risk of infection. But if you start to feel unwell, develop multiple blisters, severe headaches, chills, fevers or shivers then you should seek medical advice urgently.