Friday, July 16, 2021

Treating Sunburn


It's summer.  A friend calls in the morning and you're off to spend time with them outside and before you know it.  You have bright red skin.  You got a sunburn because you forgot to put on the sunscreen.  I've had it happen before, especially when I'm off visiting somewhere else.  Fortunately, It hasn't happened in a while but I've had some good ones. 

About one third of the adult population ends up sunburned each year and about 33,000 of those folks have a burn that is severe enough to require an emergency room visit. 

A sunburn is caused by overexposure to UV rays. The more time you are exposed to the sun, the more you increase your chances of a sunburn.  However, the darker your skin, the longer it takes to get a sunburn due to the pigment melanin which provides protection from UV rays.  Furthermore, the worse the sunburn, the longer it takes your body to replace the damaged skin.  If you smoke, or have certain conditions such as diabetes, it will take your body longer to heal because a weakened immunity system slows down your body's ability to repair itself. 

It is important to treat the sunburn as soon as you notice it because any sunburn can cause long term damage to the skin and increase your chances of getting skin cancer later in life.  There are things one can do to help your body heal faster.

First, one should take as many cool showers or baths as needed to relieve the pain.  When you get out pat your skin dry but leave a bit of moisture before applying a moisturizing lotion on the area.  This helps trap water on your skin, helping relieve dryness. 

When you apply a moisturizing lotion, make sure it contains aloe vera or soy to help sooth the burn.  If any area is more uncomfortable, apply an over the counter hydrocortisone cream.  Do not use any product that ends in -caine such as benzocaine because that could irritate the skin or cause an allergenic reaction. Think about taking aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain, swelling, or redness.  

If your skin breaks out in blisters, this means you have a second degree burn. Do not think about popping blisters since the blisters are designed to help protect the you from infection and heal the skin.  Be sure to drink lots of water because the burn is drawing moisture from the rest of your body and you want to stay dehydrated.

Don't be afraid of sleeping a lot.  Sleep helps your body heal because your body produces certain cytokines that help control inflammation. Don't smoke because smoking promotes inflammation in the body.  Finally, cover the burned areas with a tight woven cloth to prevent exposure to additional sunlight. You do not want to get additional damage to your skin. 

If your skin blisters, or you are feeling extremely hot or are running a temperature, or you feel dizzy or sick, you have a headache or develop muscles or cramps or the sunburn is on a baby, check with your doctor as these signal problems.

It's summer and most of us want to be outside.  Wear sunscreen, long sleeves, a hat, sunglasses, and avoid the hottest times of the day.  If you are on the water, make sure you use sunscreen and don't forget to reapply it regularly thought the day.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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