image of a woman with a sunburnt back 

The summer holidays are here and outdoor activities are in full swing. With that, of course, comes the dreaded sunburn. Even with the best intentions, accidents sometimes happen.

Unfortunately there is no miracle cure for sunburn, it just takes time and patience to heal. Here’s what to do if you get struck by sunburn:

Cool the area

Run the area under cool water as soon as possible for at least 20 minutes. Regular cool baths or showers and gentle application of cold compresses can also assist in easing the pain.


Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated for at least two days after getting burnt. Sunburn can lead to dehydration, as the burn draws fluid to the surface of the skin and away from the rest of your body. Watch for signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth, reduced urination, dizziness or lethargy.

Soothe and moisturise

The dried-out skin is thirsty and needs to be rehydrated. A plain, water-based moisturiser (such as sorbolene cream) can help to add moisture to the area and minimise peeling and flaking. Spray-on solutions can also offer relief without the need to rub the skin by hand.

Stay in the shade

Stay out of the sun if you can, or be sun smart if you are going back outside. Use sun screen, wear long loose-fitting clothing and a hat, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

Avoid irritants

Soaps and certain skin products such as ointments or creams can irritate the skin further, so avoid using these on the affected area.

Leave your skin alone

Your skin needs time to repair itself. If you have blisters, they are there for a reason - to protect the skin underneath them. Do not burst or break blisters, as this can dry out the skin underneath which may lead to infection or other skin problems. Blisters will gradually reduce in size as the area heals.

Seek medical advice

If you have severe sunburn with blisters that you are concerned about, or if you are feeling unwell and experiencing nausea, dizziness or headaches, seek medical advice from your doctor.


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