You’re sunburned: Now what?
Sunburn can harm skin all year round, but especially during the summer months when the sun’s UV rays are hottest.
“The first step to avoiding sunburn, other than not going outside, is to cover up as much as possible when outdoors,” says Dr. Gameli Dekayie, an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “A hat, sunglasses and clothes that cover your arms and legs are your best bet.”
There are many ways to prevent sunburn. Using sunscreen and protecting yourself all day is essential, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater. Apply sunscreen every two hours when exposed to the sun or even more frequently if swimming or sweating.
Even if you are cautious and trying to avoid a sunburn, it can sometimes happen. Once it’s too late and you are already sunburned, Dr. Dekayie has some tips on how to relieve the pain and minimize skin damage.
- Take frequent baths or showers: After getting sunburned, take a cool shower and lightly towel dry to leave some water on the surface of the skin.
- Moisturize with aloe vera or soy: Once your skin is cooled from a bath or shower, apply the cream or lotion to soothe the skin and trap in moisture. Using aloe vera or soy moisturizers can relieve discomfort and help avoid peeling and itching.
- Drink extra water: Believe it or not, sunburn can actually make you sick. People can become dehydrated, tired, and even dizzy if their sunburn is bad enough.
- Take Advil or ibuprofen: This can help reduce pain and swelling of sunburn.
“If a particular area feels especially uncomfortable, you may want to apply a hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription,” says Dr. Dekayie. “Do not treat sunburn with “-caine” products such as benzocaine, as these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.
Dr. Dekayie recommends taking precautions for your next time in the sun by wearing a hat, reapply sunscreen every two hours, and wearing tight-knit clothing to help protect your skin against the pain of a future sunburn as well as long-term health risks such as skin cancer.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.