How to Treat a Sunburn


It happens to the best of us.

We slather, we spray, we practically cannonball into a vat of SPF 1,000 before hitting the Grand Strand’s beaches and yet… we still manage to get sunburned.

Ouch. And now what? Other than pledge to somehow be even more diligent with the sunscreen application (and reapplication after swimming and toweling off), we need to soothe this nasty burn.

Here are some tips if you get a sunburn during your Myrtle Beach vacation.

1) Aloe vera. The most natural remedy happens to be one of the best. Aloe’s cooling properties not only bring instant relief to raw skin, it may have anti-inflammatory agents that aid with swelling. Natural aloe isn’t the most portable thing (TSA might balk at you trying to bring a spiky plant through security) but store-bought aloe vera gels work great, and deliver even more comfort when kept cold in your hotel fridge. Apply in gentle, circular motions as often as needed. Follow later with unscented lotion to hydrate skin.'

2) Aspirin. Pop an aspirin or ibuprofen as soon as realize you’ve been torched. This not only eases pain but tamps down inflammation. Don’t, however, give these to kids (or pregnant or breastfeeding women). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) formulated for children is helpful with the pain element, but won’t tackle the swelling. Pregnant and nursing women can generally take Tylenol, but always check with your provider before taking any oral medication.

3) Water. Take a cool bath, gentle shower and/or apply cool, wet washcloths to burnt skin. Avoid showers if you have blisters, and be sure to guzzle water continually to rehydrate.

4) Hydrocortisone. Over-the-counter creams contain low-dose steroids that effectively take the puffiness out of your burn. A 1% cream is safe to use even on small children.

5) Stay indoors. Take a break from the sun and head to the movies, the Palace or the mall. If that’s not possible, stay covered up under a beach umbrella. Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved cotton clothes  and wide-brimmed hats (easier to do than it sounds, since beach tunics and big hats are in style right now) and slather — and we mean slather — yourself liberally with sunblock.

6) Prevention. This is the easiest way to treat sunburn — don’t get one. Find a broad-spectrum high SPF (at least 30-50) appropriate for your activity and apply often. Many new formulations have active beach-goers in mind, such as those that can be applied to wet skin, or can be easily sprayed on before exercising or just hitting the town. We love maximum coverage kids’ swimwear treated with SPF for added protection but these need to be worn in addition to high SPF sunscreens made for children. Get in the habit of wearing sunscreen every day, rain or shine, to minimize risk. The average adult needs about an ounce (a shot glass full) for appropriate coverage. Reapply as needed.

Note: if you or a family member has a fever, rash, chills or feels faint, dizzy or nauseated; is extremely thirsty, or if eyes hurt, pulse or breathing quickens abnormally, or if blisters become severely painful, seek medical attention immediately.

(posted 6/16/14)