Ask the doctor – how to treat sunburned skin

Woman with Sunburn Sunglassess

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

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

A. Sunburns are damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.

It makes the skin red, sore, hot, tender and sometimes itchy for about a bit after the damage.

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

Although sunburns are often short-lived and mild, it’s important to try to avoid them because they can increase your risk of developing serious health problems, such as skin cancer.

If you or your child are sunburned, you should protect yourself from the sun as soon as possible, go indoors or in a shaded area.

You can usually treat mild sunburn at home, although in some circumstances you should see a doctor.

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


Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Apply a water-based emollient or petroleum jelly (like petroleum jelly) to keep your skin feeling fresh.

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

Try to avoid all sunlight, including through windows, covering 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 and search ‘pharmacies’ to find one near you.

Information is also available via NHS Inform at

Do you want to react to this article ? If yes, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.