Exposure to the sun may results in symptoms such as intensely reddened skin, blistering, severe pain and swelling. These signs indicate the first two layers of your skin have been sunburned, and that you have a second degree burn. While serious, you can treat this type of burn at home if it is small and does not cover your face, hands or feet. Consult a doctor immediately if your burn is more severe than this or if symptoms worsen.
One of the best and easiest actions you can take to treat your sunburn is to cool it off. If you do this immediately, it helps stop the burning process as soon as possible in your skin. It will also alleviate pain. When cooling a second degree burn, you should run it under cool—not cold—water. You can also hop in a tub of cool water and submerge your burn, or cover the affected area with a cold compress. You should not, however, put ice on a burn, cautions the Mayo Clinic, as this can cause more damage.
If your skin is very red but not blistering, MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, recommends moisturizing. Moisturize with a mild cream or lotion that contains aloe or other hydrating ingredients. Never use ointments such as Vaseline, as these will only worsen your burn.
If your skin is inflamed and blistering, bandage it with sterile gauze. Wrapping a bandage lightly yet securely around the burned area will protect the area while it heals. Blistered areas are especially vulnerable to infection, and leaving them intact and covered is the best way to help your skin heal itself, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Take a Pain-Reliever
Second degree sunburns are painful, and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can decrease the pain you feel until it heals. Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., recommends taking anti-inflammatory medications until your painful symptoms subside. Certain people respond differently to different medications, and it is important to take one that will work best for you. In general, aspirin should be taken by adults, acetaminophen is safest for children and teenagers, and ibuprofen may be a good choice for children, teens and adults. Consult a pharmacist in your drugstore if you are unsure which pain reliever is best for you.
A freelance writer based in San Francisco, Ann Bartkowski began writing professionally for the New York State Department of Heath in 2006 as a science educator. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Bates College. Bartkowski has published numerous articles for various websites, specializing in nutrition, children, health and the environment.