Treating Sun Burns


We all know that the sun emits dangerous ultraviolet rays that may damage our skin and eyes. We know that sunscreen is important and that we should limit our time in the direct sunlight. However, mistakes get made and having that knowledge does not always prevent sunburns. The short-term result is a first-degree burn, which affects only the outermost layer of skin. This causes notable redness accompanied by a painful, hot feeling all over our skin, which may lead to the ugly and unpleasant peeling of damaged skin. A sunburn may be accompanied by mild fever and/or dehydration, which may lead to headaches. So what can one do to treat this discomfort and possibly limit the damage?

  • Act quickly – If you notice sunburn developing, get out of the sun as quickly as possible. It may take up to six hours for symptoms of a sunburn to present themselves, so you should not assume a lack of symptoms equals a lack of burning. If you do notice a tingling sensation on the skin or see redness developing, get out of the sun and begin treatment.

  • Moisturize – Moisturizing cream or lotion may soothe the affected skin, so apply some liberally. Repeating the application frequently may help make the inevitable peeling and flaking of the skin less noticeable. While there is no hard evidence to support this, it is commonly believed that lotions containing vitamins C and E may limit long-term damage to the skin. While studies do not confirm this, they also do not indicate any harm will come from using these enriched products. Using a hydrocortisone cream for the first day or two following the sunburn may provide additional pain relief.

  • Be gentle – It is irritating to have peeling skin and many people feel compelled to remove the flaking skin as quickly as possible. However, using abrasive scrubs or tools to expedite peeling or picking at the skin may irritate the burned area. Try to resist the temptation to mess with the skin and just let it slough off naturally.

  • Hydrate – Burns, including sunburns, draw water towards the damaged area, and away from the rest of the system. Drink plenty of water or sports drink to stave off dehydration. Signs of dehydration may include dry mouth, excessive thirst, decrease in production of urine, headache, and sleepiness. Children are especially vulnerable to dehydration, so seek medical attention if symptoms appear.

  • Over-the-counter painkillers – These inexpensive and easily accessible medications may dull the pain and reduce any fever the patient may experience.


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