Sunburn can be quite the irritating nuisance and commonly causes injury and skin damage to millions of people. Even when taking precautions like appropriate clothing or sunblock, the sun’s rays can still manage to beat down and cause burns. When dealing with and treating sunburn, it’s important to remember that it is in fact, a burn, and can be treated as such. Severe sunburn can also include red, painful skin with blistering. If covering a large area of the body, it can also be accompanied by dehydration, dizziness, and body aches. Here are some tips on how to manage the injury if it does arise.
- apply aloe or other over the counter pain relief and cooling creams
- keep areas of affected skin and sunburn clean and dry
- use ice or cold compresses
- treat it like a burn
- pop or rupture any blisters
- ignore freckles or moles
- forget to stay hydrated
- expose burned skin to more sun
Applying a cooling pain relief cream will help with the burning sensation and irritation of the sunburn. Aloe-based products can also help prevent peeling.
The sunburned skin will undergo a few changes, initially red and painful, then will start to peel. Moisturize with a soothing lotion to prevent peeling. Be aware of lotion ingredients, since retinol, hydroxy acids, and alcohol can aggravate skin instead of healing it.
Apply a cold compress or ice pack to the affected areas to help alleviate the pain. Fill a sealable plastic bag with ice and some water, wrap in a towel, and apply to the affected area. Allow the compress to cool the area for 20 minutes, then remove the pack and allow the skin to reach body temperature again. You can re-apply every 20 minutes as needed, provided you allow 20 minutes between sessions.
Just like with other burns, cool compresses, keeping the affected area clean and NSAIDs like ibuprofen are good to allow the skin to heal comfortably. If a large area is affected, or blistering develops and you feel dizzy or have persistent pain, seek a medical professional as soon as possible.
In severe cases or in those with sensitive skin, there may be blistering. Avoid breaking the blisters, but if blisters do rupture, remove the overlying thin layer of blistered skin and make sure the underlying area doesn’t become infected by applying antibiotic ointment, like Neosporin or Bacitracin, twice daily.
Even familiar spots that may change in size, shape, or color, are cause for concern. If any of these changes occur, please see your physician or a dermatologist to have it checked and consider a possible biopsy.
In addition to the persistent sun exposure, you may also have to deal with dehydration, not just sunburn. Staying hydrated helps prevent the other ill effects of the sun, and in the event of a severe sunburn, helps the skin recover and replenish the fluid lost in areas of skin damage.
Keep the sunburned areas of your body covered with loose-fitting items of clothing when you’re outdoors and exposed to the sun. Make sure clothing is dense enough to block the sun’s rays. If you hold it up to the light, no light should show through the fabric.
The best way to treat sunburn is to prevent it from happening. Sunscreen, along with hats and other types of sun protective clothing, are essential to protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. This also helps prevent the sun’s skin aging effects and lowers your risk for the development of skin cancer.