Getting a sunburn is nothing new or unusual. You may have gone to the beach with family or friends and spent too much time in the sun, leading to a burning sensation on your skin and possibly itchiness.

While the symptoms of sunburn are usually manageable, sometimes complications like hell’s itch can develop. This is itchy skin that can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with, however, it’s important to know that there are ways to relieve the symptoms. In this article, we’ll look at treatment options, home remedies, and preventive methods.

What is Hell’s Itch?

Hell’s itch is a complication that you can develop when you already have a sunburn. While there are limited studies that examine its prevalence, an estimated 10% of people [1] deal with this issue in response to a burn.

Hell’s itch is not the same as a regular burn, which occurs when you’ve been in the sun for too long or have forgotten to wear sunscreen. Some people are more prone to experiencing hell’s itch than others, and it’s also important to note that it doesn’t happen right after you develop a sunburn. Instead, most people notice symptoms within a day or two of excess sun exposure.

What Are the Symptoms of Hell’s Itch?

The main symptom of hell’s itch is, just as the name suggests, itchiness. However, note that it’s not the same as the sensation you may experience from a regular sunburn. This type of itching is far more severe [2], and many people even describe it as being quite painful.

You are most likely to develop these symptoms on your shoulders and upper back, although other parts of your body may also be affected. Apart from the intense pain and itchiness, you may also notice other common symptoms like blisters, peeling skin, and redness.

What Causes This Itch?

There is some confusion about what exactly causes hell’s itch, and while several experts have written on the topic there is still no definitive answer. However, researchers and dermatologists theorize that the intense itching and pain are caused by damage to the nerve endings [3] present in the area where you developed the sunburn. This may result in the intense, unbearable sensations that you experience with hell’s itch.

How to Prevent Hell’s Itch

Due to the “hellish” symptoms associated with hell’s itch, it’s better to take precautions to prevent it from happening in the first place. Limiting the amount of time you spend out in the sun is one excellent method.

However, there may be times when you want to engage in outdoor activities like going to the beach, in which case you could consider bringing an umbrella to provide shade. In addition, it’s important to apply a product that protects your skin from UV ray damage, like Dermaxsol Hydrating SPF Daily Moisturizer. Using this as the last step in your morning routine help prevent damage from UV rays, reduces the risk of sunburn, and helps you avoid hell’s itch.

Risk Factors to Consider

While the specific causes aren’t fully understood, there are a few risk factors researchers have identified that make you more prone to developing hell’s itch. Statistics indicate that people who have fair skin are most likely to be affected by this complication. In addition, it occurs more often when you experience sun exposure at a high altitude.

Hell’s Itch Diagnosis

When it comes to a diagnosis, it’s important to note that hell’s itch and itchy sunburn are two different things. You can usually treat a regular sunburn at home through methods like cooling the skin or applying a topical cream. However, if the symptoms become extremely severe you may want to see a physician.

As hell’s itch is quite a new phenomenon, there are no specific rules that doctors follow to diagnose the condition. However, your physician will ask about your specific symptoms and conduct a physical examination to make a diagnosis and decide on a course of treatment.

How to Treat Hell’s Itch

One of the most common treatments for hell’s itch is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which you can purchase over the counter at your local pharmacy. Some people also find that taking an antihistamine helps to reduce the amount of itching they experience.

The good news is that the itching usually only lasts for about 48 hours, and may come and go during that time. If the symptoms do not improve within this time span or they become more severe, you might want to see a doctor for a prescription medication to reduce the pain and inflammation in the areas where you have sunburn.

Sunscreen coverage

Home Remedies to Help Soothe Hell’s Itch

If you want to know how to stop sunburn itching naturally, there are several home remedies that can help. For example, aloe vera is a soothing gel that can help relieve the itching and burning sensations that go along with hell’s itch. Another effective option is a topical hydrocortisone cream.

Some people find relief by adding oatmeal to the bathtub and soaking in it for a few minutes. Just make sure the water is not too hot, as this strips the natural oils from your skin and may significantly worsen the itching.


What does hell’s itch feel like?

People have described hell’s itch in a variety of ways, some saying it feels like fire ants are underneath their skin biting them. Others have said it makes them want to rip off their skin.

What are the symptoms of sun poisoning?

Blistering and redness are common symptoms of sun poisoning, and often pain in the affected areas. If you have sun poisoning, it’s also common to experience dehydration, dizziness, and fever.

Does a hot shower help sunburn?

No, a hot shower does not help a sunburn, although this is a common myth. However, it can make the problem worse by stripping your skin of its natural oils and worsening the pain and itchiness.

How do you stop a sunburn from itching after a shower?

You can stop a sunburn from itching after a shower by taking anti-inflammatory medication, or by applying a topical product like an aloe vera gel to soothe the itchiness, burning, and pain.

How long does hell’s itch last?

The time span of hell’s itch is not the same for everyone. While many people find that the itching comes and goes, generally speaking, it tends to last for about 48 hours.


Hell’s itch is a complication that sometimes occurs after you experience a really bad sunburn, and it can cause severe itchiness, a stinging sensation, and pain. While it’s not a common affliction, it can be extremely unpleasant. Knowing how to relieve the itchiness and related symptoms may offer you some relief, but it’s even more important to understand how to prevent it from occurring in the first place.