How to treat a sunburn

How to treat a sunburn.

Wilderness First Aid


Spend enough time outdoors and at some point you are going to get a sunburn, no matter how careful you are. How to properly treat a sunburn is general first aid knowledge every person who enjoys playing outside should have in their arsenal.


Step-by-Step instructions for treating a sunburn:


The following tips come from the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  1. If you think you may be getting burnt, get out of sun. Cover exposed skin, find shade or simply call it a day and head home. It can take up to six hours for a sunburn to become apparent.
  2. If you are burnt, cool down. You can take a cool bath or apply a cold damp towel to the sunburn a few times a day. I’m sure you’ve done this before, and yes it feels really good!
  3. Moisturize the burned areas with copious amounts of lotions that contain aloe vera, vitamin C or vitamin E.
  4. If your burn is painful you can take ibuprofen and use a hydrocortisone cream for a couple days to relieve the pain. Stay away from lotions or creams that include petroleum, which is a heat trap, or benzocaine or lidocaine, which can irritate the burn.
  5. Stay hydrated! A sunburn brings fluids from the body towards the skin. So make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
  6. Keep your hands to yourself! If your sunburn is bad enough to form blisters, leave them alone! Never pop them, that just increases the risk of infection and irritation.
  7. Remember the best treatment is prevention. If not well-covered, always wear plenty of sunscreen and make sure to have extra in your first aid kit. Also it’s helpful to know your skin type and how prone you are to burning. Below we’ve listed the Fitzgerald Skin Type Scale to help your determine your skin type.

Skin Conditions and Skin Types


The Fitzgerald Skin Type Scale categorizes human skin types into 6 groups:

Skin Type 1  Pale white, red-headed, freckled. Irish/Scots/Welsh.  Always burns, never tans, extremely sun-sensitive.

Skin Type 2  White to beige, fair-skinned, fair-haired, blue or green-eyed. Caucasian.  Burns easily, tans minimally, very sun-sensitive.

Skin Type 3  Beige, average skin. burns moderately, tans gradually to light brown, minimally sun-sensitive.

Skin Type 4  Light brown skin. Mediterranean-type Caucasians  Burns minimally, tans well to moderate brown; minimally sun-sensitive

Skin Type 5  Moderate brown skin.  Middle Eastern, some Hispanics, some African-Americans.  Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark

Skin Type 6  Dark brown or black skin.  African-American.  Rarely if ever burns, tans profusely