Emergency advice


  1. Cover the skin and move into shade.
  2. Drink sips of water.
  3. Cool with cold water or after-sun lotion.
  4. If severe seek medical advice.

What is sunburn?

Sunburn is caused by too much exposure to the sun, a sunlamp or a sunbed. You can prevent getting sunburn by covering up with light clothing, staying in the shade and regularly applying high factor sunscreen. 

Signs and symptoms

Look for: 

  • reddened skin 
  • pain in the area of the burn 
  • later, blistering may appear.

What to do

  1. Cover the casualty’s skin with lightweight clothing. Move them out of the sun, into the shade, or indoors if possible.

  2. Encourage them to keep taking sips of cold water.

  3. You can cool the skin by sponging it gently with cold water.

    • If the burn is large you could soak the sore skin in a cold bath or shower for 10 minutes.
  4. For mild sunburn, calamine lotion or after-sun lotion may help to soothe. Advise the casualty to stay inside or in the shade.

    • If the sunburn is severe, for example with blistering, they should seek medical advice.
    • The casualty could also suffer from heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Be prepared to treat if necessary.

Our training courses:

First aid courses

First aid courses


Related first aid advice


Blisters are common on the feet and can be caused by ill-fitting shoes, but can appear anywhere on the skin. Learn what to look for and what to do.


If someone has heatstroke, your priority is to cool the casualty down as quickly as possible and get them to hospital. Find out what to look for and what to do.

How to use a cold compress

Cooling an injury like a sprain or bruise can help to reduce the swelling and pain. Find out how to use two types of cold compress.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support