How to treat this common summer ailment
Fun in the sun is a perfect way to spend a summer day until you realize you’ve been sunburned.
“Sunburn is a reaction the skin has to excessive sunlight that causes inflammation of the skin,” explains Dr. Martha Arroyo, a dermatologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “It poses the risk of pain, blistering and the long-term risk of skin cancer with frequent sunburns.”
People with fair complexions are at higher risk and so are babies because their skin is new. “But everyone is at risk,” she adds. “It depends on how long and intense the sun exposure is.”
The risk for sunburn is highest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). If your shadow is shorter than you, it’s best to be in the shade.
Dr. Arroyo recommends treating sunburn by:
- Getting out of the sun. Minimize further damage by heading inside or covering up.
- Using a cold compress. Cool the skin with a wet washcloth or towel to relieve discomfort.
- Applying an emollient. Soothe skin with moisturizers containing aloe or oatmeal.
- Taking a pain reliever. Reduce swelling and pain with a pain reliever such as ibuprofen.
A sunburn will heal in three to seven days, depending on the severity. Dr. Arroyo advises you to seek medical attention if you have trouble sleeping, are unable to keep food down, or have severe blisters or peeling.
To protect against sunburn, the AAD recommends seeking shade, applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and wearing sun-protective clothing.