Busting Sunburn Treatment Myths

by Nurse Rose Melendez | WGTS 91.9 FM

With everyone spending more time in the sun this time of year, most of us have probably heard that we should wear at least one ounce of broad spectrum sunscreen with 30 SPF or higher any time we’re outdoors. But we all get the occasional sunburn. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, shares her advice on the best way to relieve that burn. 

How often do Americans get sunburned?

Nurse Rose: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, unfortunately, at least half of young adults get a sunburn each year. It’s important to remember to always wear sunscreen any time you’re outdoors, because there is no such thing as even a healthy tan. Any sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer.

So, what should you do when you do get a sunburn?

Nurse Rose: There are lots of myths about treating sunburn – like taking a hot shower or using a cold milk compress to soothe skin. However, a hot shower could actually worsen your existing first-degree burn. Further, there is no medical evidence to back up the milk remedy. In fact, a cold ice pack works just as well.

Here are some simple at-home remedies that will actually help alleviate the pain.

  • Take a pain reliever like aspirin, ibuprofen or Aleve, as soon as possible to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Drink lots of water. The sun dehydrates your entire body – including your skin.
  • Take a cold shower to soothe your skin and remove any chlorine or salt residue.
  • Use lotion with aloe vera. Moisturizers with hydrocortisone cream may ease discomfort.
  • Avoid cream with “caine” in the title, like benzocaine, which could irritate the skin further.

When should you see a doctor?

Nurse Rose: Most of the time, you’ll be able to treat a sun burn at home. But, if your sunburn is accompanied by blisters covering a large portion of your body, high fever or signs of infection like swelling or red streaks from the blisters, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Rose Melendez, RN

Rose Melendez, RN

Head of Emergency Department

Rose Melendez, RN is the head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital.

Tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to listen to Nurse Rose live on the radio.

Need medical care fast? Adventist HealthCare has you covered with three Emergency Departments and three Urgent Care Centers in Montgomery and Prince George’s County.