How to Treat Sunburn Itch

July 16, 2018

Summer is here, and the living is easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games. More time spent outdoors can lead to sunburn, and that can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as itching and the eventual peeling of skin. It is always best to avoid getting sunburned altogether by applying sunscreen properly, here are some recommendations if you are experiencing the potentially itchy aftermath of a sunburn.

Steps You Can Take to Treat Sunburn Itch

A deep sunburn can trigger unpleasant, deep, and possibly painful itching. This type of itching causes the sufferer to lose sleep and may last for days as the skin recovers.
When experiencing sunburn itch, the most important advice is to avoid any further exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Wear long pants and long sleeves if you must venture outside. Ideally, it’s best to stay indoors until your skin heals. You can also consider the following treatments:

  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. This may alleviate some of the pain and itching temporarily.
  • Consider taking an oral OTC antihistamine. These drugs, ordinarily used to curb allergy symptoms, may help reduce itchiness. Examples include diphenhydramine (i.e. Benadryl) or cetirizine (i.e. Zyrtec).
  • Drink lots of fluids. Sunburn can cause dehydration. Be sure to replenish lost fluids by drinking water or sports drinks with electrolytes.
  • Apply cool compresses. Although this provides only temporary, symptomatic relief, applying a wet washcloth to affected areas may help.
  • Take a bath with colloidal oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal may be purchased at pharmacies and is an old — but effective — topical anti-inflammatory. It can help soothe your inflamed, itchy skin. Use with cool or lukewarm water. Skin lotions containing colloidal oatmeal extract may also be helpful.
  • Apply aloe vera. This is another ancient burn remedy that may provide some much-appreciated relief from sunburn discomfort. The natural gel within the aloe vera succulent plant is brimming with compounds that may promote wound healing and skin repair. In the short term, aloe vera gel provides an immediate, temporary cooling sensation.

Prevent Sunburn Itch

Prevention is the key to avoiding sunburn and its complications. Sunburn is no mere annoyance. It also increases your risk for eventual skin cancer. You should always take steps to avoid getting a sunburn, especially if you are fair-skinned or have natural blond or red hair, and/or blue eyes.
Two forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, are the most commonly diagnosed malignancies in the United States. A third form, melanoma, is among the most serious of all cancers. A single severe burn in childhood or young adulthood can dramatically increase your chances of developing skin cancer later in life.
Recent research suggests that a sunburn on the abdomen, chest or back may be more dangerous than sunburn on the arms or legs, increasing the risk of eventual melanoma.

Tips to Avoid Sunburn:

  • Wear sunscreen, every day, even on cloudy days, with at least SPF 15. Reapply as needed, preferably every two hours or after spending time in the water.
  • Use a broad-spectrum product. Blocking both UVA and UVB rays is important.
  • Use higher SPF sunscreens if you will be out for extended periods of time or during peak burning hours (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Reapply, reapply, reapply. Swimming, sweating, and extended time in the sun all reduce a sunscreen’s effectiveness.
  • Use products that are three or fewer years old. Throw out expired sunscreen.
  • Consider staying indoors during peak burning hours. If you visit the tropics, do not underestimate the potency of the midday sun.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses, and clothing to help protect your skin.
  • Remember that sun exposure can prematurely age the skin.
When to Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for Sunburn Itch

Sunburns can be serious. If you have a severe sunburn that has caused an irritating itch or suspect you may be suffering from sun poisoning, it is important to visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care. PhysicianOne Urgent Care is here 7 days a week to evaluate your symptoms and recommend the best treatment options to relieve pain and itch associated with severe sunburn. Contact us at 1.855.349.2828, or stop in today for a convenient walk-in visit. If you’re looking to save time, find a location near you and check in online!

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