So you got a sunburn: what now?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

We all know that sunburns can cause skin cancer and a host of other issues, but sometimes you take steps to avoid one and come home with a red face regardless.

Sunburns are caused by too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, specifically UVA and UVB rays. The best way to treat a sunburn is obviously to avoid getting one in the first place. Wear sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 or higher, avoid the sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the sun’s rays are at the strongest, invest in a pair of sunglasses with UV protection. Of course, this won’t help you when you’re lying on your stomach, writhing around in pain, because you fell asleep at the beach and your back is now fire engine red.

There are certain things you can do after the fact that will at the very least, make your sunburn less painful.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends taking frequent cool showers and baths to help with the pain. This is definitely the time to skip out on the hot showers since hot water coming into contact with burned skin may cause you to feel like your skin is being peeled off with a soldering iron. Applying a cool washcloth to your face may also alleviate some of the pain.

Using a moisturizer that contains aloe will help soothe sunburned skin as well as speed up healing by bringing moisture to the surface of your skin. If your sunburn is particularly bad and blisters, you’ll want to take extra attention. A blistering sunburn means that the burns are second degree and will require more care. If they are incredibly painful, you should consider seeing a doctor. Do not pop any blisters — as gross as they are, they’re there for a reason. The skin underneath is healing and the blisters are protecting you from infection.

If more than 20 per cent of your body has blistered, you should seek medical attention immediately. If you experience chills, fever, a dry mouth or severe pain, you should also consult a doctor.

While your sunburn is healing, make sure to wear the proper clothes. Keep burned areas covered to prevent any further damage.

In order to heal a burn, the body brings water to your skin so it’s easy to get dehydrated. Make sure to drink more water than you usually do.

Even after your burn has healed, it’s important to remember that repeated exposure to UV rays can permanently damage your skin. Skin cancer can develop years after exposure. Keep an eye out for any unusual spots on your body. Dermatologists recommend seeing your doctor if you have a spot that itches, changes in shape or size or bleeds.

Some sunburns can be no big deal, they’re a minor inconvenience for a few days and then they go away, leaving behind a golden tan. Sometimes, however, they become serious  and it’s time to see a doctor.

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