Too much exposure to the sun can burn the outermost layers of the skin. Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, causing the skin to become red, painful, and hot to the touch. This occurs when clothes and sunscreen do not protect the skin. In extreme cases, you may observe severe symptoms like skin peels, small fluid-filled blisters, and a stinging sensation on the skin. Peeling is an indication that your body is shedding dead, damaged skin. It may not be easy to notice you have a sunburn until the damage is done, and it might even take 4 to 6 hours for the symptoms to be visible. Other sunburn symptoms include:
- Red or pink skin on light-skinned or white people. This may be a bit harder to notice on darker skin tones.
- Pain, tenderness, itching, or a tight feeling on the skin
- Hot or warm skin to the touch
- Painful or gritty feeling in the eyes
- Swelling and inflammation
- Nausea, headache, and fatigue (severe sunburn case)
Sunburn can harm both adults and children and increase the risk of skin cancer (melanoma). This is one of the reasons why it is essential to protect your skin from the sun in the first place. You may have damaged your skin cells and DNA when your skin burned. It is crucial to begin treatment as soon as it occurs to soothe and heal your skin. The sunburn may take days to fade away. Consistently applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher every day to skin areas exposed to the sun and wearing protective clothing like hats helps minimize the risk of skin cancer. As soon as you notice that your skin is changing color from pink to deep red or the skin is warm to the touch, get out of the sun and treat your sunburn as soon as possible. Here is how to take care of your skin after a sunburn.
Hydrate to Avoid Dehydration
Take plenty of fluids to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration since sunburn draws fluids to the skin’s surface. Water, juice, or sports drinks can help replenish electrolytes to help speed up recovery.
Take Cold Showers and Moisturize the Skin.
Take cool showers or baths to relieve pain and cool the skin. You can also apply a cool, damp compress or ice wrapped in a towel or cloth (don’t apply ice directly on the skin) to soothe the skin. Once you’re out of the shower, gently pat dry your skin, and don’t completely dry off all the water. Then apply moisturizer or aloe to trap moisture and keep the skin from drying out. Avoid using perfume or soap as they irritate and dry the skin.
Avoid Touching Blisters
If you have blisters, do not touch or break them. Once they burst on their own, gently wash the skin with water and soap, apply an antibiotic and wrap with a nonstick bandage. This also helps avoid infections and scarring.
Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, Advil, or acetaminophen as soon as you notice sunburn to minimize swelling, pain, stinging, and discomfort. You can also apply a gel pain reliever.
Avoid Direct Sun Contact Again
After your skin peels from a sunburn, your skin becomes more sensitive and at a higher risk of sunburn. It is essential to avoid getting sunburned again by taking protective measures such as wearing lightweight SPF sun-blocking clothes and wearing sunscreen to prevent future damage.
Avoid Wearing Tight Fitting Clothing
Tight clothes can further irritate and make the skin more painful. Tight clothes can also chaff and bust blisters, leading to an increased risk of infection. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that does not stick to the skin with natural fibers like cotton or bamboo.
Avoid Products Containing Irritating ingredients
Avoid petroleum jelly lotions and ointments because they trap heat. Benzocaine and lidocaine should also be avoided since they cause skin irritation or allergic reactions that can increase inflammation. Do not use creams containing alcohol can further dry out the skin, which slows the healing process. Additionally, avoid treatments containing egg whites or vinegar.
When to See a Doctor
Call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention in case you or another person suffering from sunburn experiences the following:
- Seizure, or any neurological symptoms
- If you aren’t responding to treatment
- The skin looks white or feels numb and is full of blisters
- A child under 1-year-old
- rapid breathing or pulse
- high fever or chills
- weakness, dizziness, fainting, or nausea
- swelling on the affected area of the skin
These steps can help treat and relieve your sunburn. However, it is essential to avoid getting sunburnt altogether. Enjoy the summer heat by wearing a generous amount of sunscreen all over the body without fail. Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours. Always stay hydrated and follow the tips above if exposed to the sun for long hours. For more information contact the Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston.