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Clinician’s Corner: Treatment of Sunburn

  • Your Thompson Pharmacist is busy this time of the year recommending sunscreens. Sometimes however, the sunscreen is “forgotten” or not applied frequently enough, and patients come to seek our expert advice about treatment of sunburn. Most sunburn is self-treatable. Most are usually first or second degree burns. First degree burns are simple redness of the skin. Second degree burns are when blisters appear.  Apply cool compresses; frequent cool baths or showers. Pat skin dry with towel. Do not rub.
  • Minor burns can be treated with lotions that protect the skin which reduce dryness of skin, and prevent friction damage.
  • No topical spray will stop the underlying burn process, or stop the formation of blisters.

Let’s talk about the two most common “remedies” for sunburn treatment:

Dermoplast® spray: (Benzocaine 20%) is the most effective topical anesthetic. Using a strength less than 20% is not effective.  Benzocaine may cause hypersensitivity reactions (1%)

Solarcaine® gel: (Lidocaine) Caution with broken skin (might precipitate cardiac arrhythmia)

  • We do not recommend these topical anesthetics, due to short duration of effectiveness usually no more than 45 minutes, and potential for side effects. We do not recommend for small children.

Ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) : Did you notice after a major sun exposure, a day later the redness gets worse?  You will see redness 3 to 6 hours after exposure, peaks at 12 to 24 hours, and usually subsides at 72 hours.

  • Best option for treatment of sunburn to manage the pain, and slow down the burning is Start use immediately after a “major” exposure.
  • Hydrocortisone and other anti-inflammatory creams (even prescription) are of no value.

See your physician when:

  • If more than 10% of body surface of a child is sunburned.
  • If you have: fever, headache, confusion, nausea, vomiting chills
  • Secondary infection may develop, leading to scarring. Infection is hard to treat because dead skin is an excellent place for bacterial growth.  Signs of infection include increased pain, swelling, redness, drainage or pus from blisters.

Does Sunscreen cause Vitamin-D Deficiency?  The short answer is “yes”

  • Effective use of a sunscreen blocks the synthesis of Vitamin-D in the dermis. Middle aged and elderly persons who use sunscreens daily have significantly lower concentrations of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3.
  • However the benefits of using a sunscreen, far outweigh the disadvantages of a decrease in Vitamin-D. A local dermatologist told me: “ It is easier to treat Vitamin-D deficiency than skin cancer”

Feel free to consult your Thompson Pharmacist about sun protection and sunburn treatment.  At Thompson Pharmacy… it’s all for you!