Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Sunburn treatment doesn't heal your skin or prevent damage to your skin, but it can reduce pain, swelling and discomfort. If at-home care doesn't help or your sunburn is very severe, your doctor can prescribe medication. These include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Both topical and oral NSAIDs relieve pain, swelling and inflammation and are especially beneficial when given during the first 24 hours of sun exposure. Prescription NSAIDs provide higher potencies than do over-the-counter drugs. In one study, people who were treated with the topical NSAID diclofenac (Voltaren, Solaraze) within hours of sun exposure showed a significant decrease in pain and swelling 48 hours after applying the medication. Keep in mind that oral NSAIDs may also irritate your stomach and intestine.
  • Corticosteroid medication. Topical corticosteroids may help relieve itching that occurs as your skin heals. Combining topical corticosteroids with either topical or oral NSAIDs may be more effective than using either one alone. Limited evidence supports the benefit of using oral steroids, such as prednisone, for sunburn. Using topical corticosteroids may cause thin skin, red lesions and acne.
Apr. 14, 2011