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DR LAURA RYAN: Ask the doc – how to treat sunburned skin

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Woman with Sunglasess sunburn
Woman with Sunglasess sunburn

Q. I sat in my friend’s garden over the weekend and I have ended up with quite bad sunburn.

Is there anything I can do to heal the skin that has been damaged?

A. Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.

It causes the skin to become red, sore, warm, tender and occasionally itchy for about a wee after damage.

The skin will normally start to flake and peel after a few days and should fully heal within a period of seven days.

While sunburn is often short-lived and mild, it’s important to try to avoid it, it can increase your chances of developing serious health problems, such as skin cancer.

If you or your child has sunburn, you should get out of the sun as soon as possible, head indoors or into a shady area.

You can usually treat mild sunburn at home, although there are some circumstances where you should seek medical advice.

Cool the skin by sponging it with cold water or by having a cold bath or shower – applying a cold compress such as a cold flannel to the affected area.


Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Apply a water-based emollient or petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) to keep your skin cool.

Take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve any pain – aspirin should not be given to children under 16.

Try to avoid all sunlight, including through windows, by covering up the affected areas of skin until your skin has fully healed.

A pharmacist can give you advice on how to treat your sunburn.

For more information visit www.nhsinform.scot and search for “pharmacies” to find one local to you.

Information is also available via NHS Inform at https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/skin-injuries/sunburn

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