Though it can happen in any season, getting a sunburn is most often associated with summertime. Despite all those childhood warnings from Mom, you're still likely to end up with some kind of burn if you spend a lot of time outside during the warmest months. When your efforts to block the sun's harmful effects with clothes, hats, and sunscreen don't quite cover it, here are some tips to help treat the ensuing burn.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), treating a sunburn is best done with:
- Water. Stay well hydrated to replace the water lost from all that time in the sun (high-sugar drinks, alcohol, and other foods or beverages that cause dehydration should be avoided while you are healing from a sunburn). Apply cool water to your skin with soft cloths for 10–15 minutes multiple times throughout the day. Cool showers and baths will help alleviate the pain of an extensive sunburn. When you get out of the tub, gently pat yourself almost dry, leaving a bit of water on your skin to help cool you.
- Moisturizer. Once you've naturally dried off after your shower, it's time to apply moisturizer to the burned area. Lotions with aloe or soy are best for maximum healing, but make sure to avoid products with petroleum (as in Vaseline or petroleum jelly), because they trap heat. Other substances to avoid include benzocaine, lidocaine, and alcohol, which are found in some beauty products and will further irritate your skin.
- Pain treatment. If the sunburn is really painful, ibuprofen and hydrocortisone cream, both of which can be bought over the counter, are recommended.
- Time to heal. You'll start to blister as you heal. This is your skin's attempt to protect you, and you should leave this process alone. Allow blisters to heal without popping or breaking them.
- Avoiding further exposure. Cover your head with hats and your body with light-colored, tightly woven fabrics. Apply high-SPF sunscreen under your clothes. Most of all, limit your sun exposure as much as possible while you're healing.
If you feel dizzy or nauseous after getting a burn, move to a cool place immediately. If these feelings continue or quickly worsen, contact your doctor or visit an urgent-care facility.
Avoiding Exposure Makes a Difference
Prevention is often the best policy when it comes to living well. In this case, proper prevention and protection from the sun can prolong your life. Exposure to UV rays is a clear cause of skin cancer and melanoma, which affects nearly 5 million Americans every year.
We can all make a difference in protection for ourselves and our loved ones, and the best way to avoid a worst-case scenario such as melanoma is to limit time in the sun, stay clothed as much as possible, and use sunscreen liberally. In terms of sunscreen, use it properly with the right amount of SPF protection, making sure to reapply it every two hours and after swimming and toweling off. Supplement sunscreen use with broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses for maximum protection.
Everyone wants to have their summer fun outdoors, whether at the park, the beach, or on a hike, but make sure to keep sun protection top of mind. It only takes a small amount of added preparation to prevent sunburns and the consequences that can arise from them. By taking the right measures, you'll enjoy a pain-free summer season.