How long will the pain last?
It could take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours after exposure before you can tell just how serious your sunburn is. Sunburned skin without blisters (first-degree burns) may take several days to heal. Blistered skin will take longer to heal.
Products that Treat Sunburn
Chances are you have products to ease your sunburn pain in at least two places in your house: the medicine cabinet and the kitchen. The nonprescription medications in your medicine cabinet can help relieve the discomfort of sunburn, headache and fever. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin are all good choices. If the pain is severe and your fever remains high, call your doctor. Remember, if you're treating a child, use aspirin only with a doctor's approval.
You also can apply an aloe vera gel or lotion several times a day to relieve pain and keep your skin moist. A spray-on product will be the easiest to apply. Avoid heavy creams that require rubbing the skin a lot, which can cause irritation and likely be hard to do because of the pain.
Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams will help relieve the inflammation and irritation caused by sunburn. Don't treat sunburn with "-caine" products like benzocaine or lidocaine -- these products can irritate your skin because the chemicals in them can cause allergies. Medical experts also recommend that you avoid petroleum jelly.
Next, head to your kitchen. Wrap ice or a bag of frozen peas in a damp towel for some fast relief. Chilled cucumber or potato slices, or even plain yogurt, can also feel soothing. A cool bath made with about a half cup (125 mL) of oatmeal, cornstarch or baking soda will bring down your skin temperature and help relieve itchy, irritated skin. Repeat as needed, but don't use soap, which will cause more irritation. Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it. Adding about a cup of vinegar (250 mL) to a cool bath also helps reduce pain. Some people claim that putting a few tea bags into the bath also helps. Another option is to place the cold, wet tea bags directly on your sunburned skin. Be sure to moisturize after these treatments.
Home remedies can get you through the initial discomfort of sunburn, but what should you do when blisters appear? Go to the next section to find out.