What to Do About Sunburn

Most of us have either had sunburn or seen someone with sunburn. It looks like it hurts and it is not hard to imagine how much it hurts just by looking at it. Sunburn is a burn from the sun. The skin reddens from overexposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light. Technically the skin burns once the exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light source is more than the individual’s body’s protective pigment’s ability to protect the skin. If the individual has very light skin, that exposure limit may be as little as 15 minutes of midday sun. A person with dark skin may be able to tolerate the same sun intensity for hours and not get burned. The dark skin has more pigment than the light skinned person and therefore has a higher level of protection.

The sunburn damage is not usually apparent at the time of the sun exposure. The pain from the burn usually starts about 6 to 48 hours after the sun exposure. A fever can set in, or the skin can swell. Peeling of the skin may occur between 3 and 8 days after the sun exposure.

Severe sunburn is when blistering occurs over the sunburn.

Did you know that toxins are released with the sunburn?

If you have had one or more blistering sunburns your chance for skin cancer (malignant melanoma) increases.

Sunburn isn’t the only thing you have to worry about if you have had extensive sun exposure for years, you also have to worry about your higher risk for premature wrinkling and also age spots (lentigo).

Sunburn is best prevented, but if you were not able to do that than, here are some home treatments:

Take a cool shower

Place a cold, wet cloth on the burn.

Do no use products that contain benzocaine, lidocaine, or petroleum jelly (Vaseline).

If you are blistering, place sterile gauze over the burn to prevent infection.

You can apply moisturizing cream to skin that is NOT blistered.

Take ibuprofen to relieve the pain of sunburn and also to reduce fever.

Call a doctor if:

You develop fluid-filled blisters

You feel dizzy or have vision problems

You are running a fever

If you do need to go in to see a doctor for your sunburn, you will do well, to prepare answers to the following questions:

When did the sunburn first start?

How often do you get sunburns?

Are there any blisters with your sunburn?

How much of your body is covered in sunburn?

What medications have you taken?

Did you use a sunblock? If you did, what type of sunblock or sunscreen did you use? How strong (SPF number)?

What symptoms do you have?