What to do after suffering a sunburn
Summer fun routinely involves days spent soaking up some of the sun’s rays. Relaxing days at the beach, barbecues in the backyard or picnics at the park can make for fun summer activities that create lasting memories.
While spending time in the great outdoors is a great way to take advantage of summer weather, it’s important that revelers take steps to prevent sunburn when spending days beneath the hot summer sun. Sunburns may seem temporary, but the Skin Cancer Foundation notes that sunburn can cause long-lasting skin damage. In addition, the SCF notes that a person’s risk for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
It can take several hours to notice the full damage of a sunburn, though some people may notice mild symptoms of sunburn more quickly than that. The SCF recommends that people get out of the sun at the first sign of sunburn, and then take the following steps to treat their skin.
Cool the skin down quickly. People sitting near cool water, whether it’s the ocean or a backyard pool, should take a quick dip to cool their skin. Make this dip quick so your skin is not further exposed to the sun. After taking a dip, cover up your skin and get out of the sun, continuing to cool the skin with a cold compress. Do not apply ice directly to sunburned skin. Some people may want to take a cool shower or bath after suffering a sunburn. While that’s alright, the SCF recommends keeping the bath or shower short, as long baths or showers can dry the skin, and avoiding harsh soap that can be irritating.
Moisturize skin while it’s still damp. Apply a gentle moisturizing lotion while the skin is still damp, and continue doing so to affected areas for a few days. Avoid petroleum- or oil-based ointments, as they can trap the heat and make burns worse.
Decrease inflammation. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can help sunburned men and women manage the pain and discomfort associated with their sunburns. Symptoms such as redness and swelling may be mitigated with a 1 percent over-the-counter cortisone cream applied as directed for a few days.
Wear the right clothing. Tight clothing can rub up against sunburned skin and irritate it even further. Until sunburned skin returns to normal, wear loose, soft and breathable clothing to keep irritation to a minimum.
Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated. Sunburns draw fluid to the surface of skin, taking it away from the rest of the body. So it’s important that men and women who have suffered a sunburn make a conscious effort to drink more fluids until their skin heals so they can avoid becoming dehydrated.
Report severe sunburns to a physician. Symptoms of severe sunburn include blistering of the skin, fever, chills, wooziness, and/or feelings of confusion. Report such symptoms to a physician immediately, and avoid popping blisters, as doing so can lead to infection.
Sunburns can always be avoided. Men, women and children planning to spend time in the sun should take every measure to avoid sunburn, which can produce long-lasting damage to the skin.