The Facts About Sunburn and How To Treat It
Sun damage can be painful, itchy and a danger to your health, so you should always do your best to avoid it. However, long summer days spent outdoors and exposure to intense sun on holidays abroad inevitably lead to sunburn for many. Here’s what you need to know about sunburn and how best to ease the symptoms.
The Facts About Sunburn
Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. The body protects itself from these harmful rays by accelerating the production of melanin – the skin’s pigment. This accelerated production is what causes a tan. When the skin absorbs more UV light than it can defend against, the skin burns, becoming red and sore.
The people most at risk of sunburn include those with pale skin, freckled skin, fair hair, and those who are rarely exposed to intense sun. However, anyone who is exposed to UV rays can get sunburn. It’s a myth that those with dark skin do not need to worry about it, so everyone should be taking steps to protect their skin from sun damage.
How To Treat Sunburn
There are varying degrees of sunburn. In the case of mild sunburn, you can most often relieve your symptoms at home by doing the following:
- Cool down the skin with damp towels, or take a cool bath or shower.
- Moisturise the skin with a water-based emollient. It can be helpful to apply the lotion to slightly damp skin, so it can lock in that moisture.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help you cool down and avoid dehydration.
- If you are in pain, take painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
If your sunburn is more severe you should see your GP or a local pharmacist if you are away from home. Symptoms of severe sunburn include blistering, swelling, chills, fever, headaches and dizziness. Your doctor may recommend using hydrocortisone cream for a few days, which is available over-the-counter at pharmacies, to help reduce the inflammation of your skin. In extreme cases, you may require a special burn cream and burn dressings from your GP, or you may experience heat exhaustion as well as sunburn.
If you suffer from blisters, you should avoid bursting them. This slows down the skin’s healing process and can increase the risk of infection. If a blister is broken accidentally, gently clean the area, apply antibacterial cream and protect the area with a wet dressing.
Protecting Healing Skin
While your skin is recovering from being burnt, take care to keep it protected. Avoid further sun exposure, and, if you do have to go outside, cover up the skin with clothing made from tightly-woven fabrics.
Sunburn can sometimes cause irritation while you’re trying to sleep. Sprinkling talcum powder on bed sheets can help to reduce the amount of friction and chafing you experience, allowing you to sleep more comfortably. If possible keep the room at a comfortably cool temperature.
While sunburn is most often short-lived, it can increase your risk of serious health problems, such as skin cancer, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. The best way to do this is to minimise your exposure to UV rays. Limit the amount of time you spend in the sunshine, and when you do go out, apply a generous amount of sunscreen with a high SPF. This will not last all day, so make sure you reapply at least every two hours. Try to stay in the shade or cover up in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest – between the hours of 11am and 3pm.
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to be sunny for you to get burnt. UV rays can pass through clouds and still cause damage. Surfaces such as snow, sand and water can also reflect UV rays, allowing them to cause sun damage without you being exposed to direct sunlight. This means it’s still necessary to wear sunscreen even if you stick to shaded areas.
To read about 10 common sunscreen mistakes, please click on this link.
The desire for an attractive tan makes many people dismissive of the risks of sunburn, but they should be taken seriously. Your health should be your priority, and preventing sun damage is the best way to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.