Sun Burn Care: Don't Underestimate the Harm - Mature Health Center

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Originally published May 14, 2013, last updated February 20, 2014

Sun Burn Care: Don't Underestimate the Harm

Harmful Sunburn

It’s happened to all of us at some point – the over-tan or, in most cases, unplanned sunburn. We went out unprepared and came back baked. What’s the harm, right?

Plenty. In fact, your risk for melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – doubles if you have been overexposed to the sun five or more times. The Skin Cancer Foundation, in a survey conducted in partnership with iVillage, learned that 42 percent of those polled get a sunburn at least once each year. And melanoma isn’t the only danger. “The two most common nonmelanoma skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are directly related to sun accumulation over many years,” the report stated.

Sunburn looks bad, hurts, peels and inflicts long-lasting, wrinkle-inducing damage. Here are five ways, courtesy of the Skin Cancer Foundation, how you can ease the pain and perhaps limit the damage sunburn causes.

1. If you feel tingling or see any sign of skin reddening on yourself or your child, get out of the sun and start treatment. Sunburn can take four to six hours for symptoms to develop. Even a touch of pink could turn into a big problem later.

2. After a cool shower or bath, use a moisturizing cream or lotion and repeat frequently to make peeling and flaking less noticeable. Products containing vitamin C and vitamin E might help limit skin damage. A hydrocortisone cream for a day or two is also acceptable.

3. Sunburn draws fluid to the skin surface and away from the rest of the body. Drink extra water, juice and sports drinks for a couple of days and watch for signs of dehydration like dry mouth, thirst, reduced urination, headache, dizziness and sleepiness.

4. Take (or give your child) a dose of ibuprofen as soon as you see signs of sunburn and keep it up for the next 48 hours. Acetaminophen will treat the pain, but does not have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

5. Most sunburn can be treated at home. But if a blistering burn covers 20 percent or more of the body, seek medical attention. Also go to the doctor right away if fevers or chills accompany your sunburn.

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