You've stayed out in the sun too long, didn't (re)apply sunscreen, and have a serious sunburn -- now what? As far as blisters are concerned, your best bet is to let them be. Remember that blisters form to protect the skin, so you shouldn't pop them. If a sun blister pops on its own, wash the area gently, but don't pull off any skin. Instead, loosely cover the popped blister with a clean bandage. You can also bandage intact blisters, which will help prevent infection. Use a soft material, like gauze, and just be careful not to break the blisters.
Treatments for the sunburned skin surrounding sun blisters will relieve pain, but they won't actually make the sunburn heal faster. The healing process happens naturally, but severe cases can sometimes take several days to even begin to heal. In the meantime, cover sunburned skin with a cool washcloth, or take a cool bath or shower to relieve irritation. Use moisturizers such as aloe on your skin. Many moisturizers can be purchased at your local drugstore, but be careful. Benzocaine and lidocaine are ingredients in some moisturizers that could actually further irritate your sunburn, so read the labels before you make your choice. You can also take over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain from sunburns.
If your sunburn doesn't begin to heal in several days or is covered in sun blisters, you should see a doctor. Also see a doctor if you feel dizzy or have a fever -- these symptoms can accompany a sunburn and are signs of a more serious problem, such as dehydration or heat exhaustion.
The best way to treat a sunburn is to prevent it. Wear sunscreen when you go out in the sun, even if you don't think you'll be out for very long. Your skin will thank you.
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- American Academy of Dermatology. "Ultraviolet Index: What You Need To Know." (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_ultraviolet.html
- Ansdell. "Sunburn." Center for Disease Control and Prevention. July 29, 2009. (Accessed 8/6/2009). http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-2/sunburn.aspx
- Berman, Kevin. "Sunburn Health Article." Healthline. April 12, 2007. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/sunburn
- Duldner, John E. "Sunburn first aid." Medline Plus. June 9, 2008. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000062.htm#Prevention
- Gibson, Lawrence E. "Sunburn treatment: What works?" Health Information. Aug. 16, 2008. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sunburn-treatment/AN01423
- Harvard Health Publications. "Blister (Overview)." Dec. 18, 2007. (Accessed 8/3/2009. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-information/blisters-overview-what-is-it.aspx
- Harvard Health Publications. "Sun-Damaged Skin." Feb. 8, 2007. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-information/sun-damaged-skin-what-is-it.aspx
- ToothIQ. "Herpetic lesions." March 21, 2008. (Accessed 8/4/2009) http://www.toothiq.com/dental-diagnoses/dental-diagnosis-herpes-labialis-overview.html
- ToothIQ. "Sunburned lips." June 16, 2009. (Accessed 8/4/2009) http://www.toothiq.com/dental-symptoms/dental-symptom-sunburned-lips.html