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:
Apr. 14, 2011
- 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.
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- Wolf K, et al. Photosensitivity, photo-induced disorders and disorders by ionizing radiation. In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=45. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Brice S, et al. Sunburn. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Habif TP. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed March 13, 2011.
- Skin cancer prevention and early detection. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/SunandUVExposure/SkinCancerPreventionandEarlyDetection/skin-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-what-to-look-for. Accessed March 14, 2011.
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- Get set for winter illness season. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm092805.htm. Accessed March 14, 2011.
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- Benzocaine topical products: Sprays, gels and liquids — risk of methemoglobinemia. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm250264.htm. Accessed Apr. 8, 2011.