The summer is a great time to enjoy the sun and get some extra Vitamin D but it’s also a time when we sunburn the most. Not only can we get sunburn from a being outside on a sunny or cloudy day but we can also get burned from tanning salons. It’s the UV light from the sun and the tanning beds that gives us the tan and the burn.
So what can we do about it?
Well for starters, prevention is key. If we can prevent sunburns in the first place, it will save us pain now and more importantly, prevent photo-aging (wrinkles and brown sun-spots) and skin cancer later on. Here are 4 simple steps to prevent sunburns:
- Avoid sunbathing and direct sun exposure between 10am and 4pm. This is when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Apply broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or greater, covering all areas not protected by clothing.
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- And certainly, avoiding the tanning salons.
And when using suncreen, remember these simple points:
- Apply 15 minutes before going outside.
- Reapply every 2 hours especially if you are swimming or heavily sweating.
- While sunscreen should be applied during summer months since we tend to be outside more, it should be applied daily throughout the year. This rule goes for all skin types and colors.
If you weren’t able to prevent the sunburn in the first place, here are some tips on ways to make that pesky sunburn feel better.
- The biggest well-kept secret is to take an over-the-counter NSAID pain reliever (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug –e.g. ibuprofen or naproxen or aspirin) at the first sign of a sunburn. Don’t wait!!! This makes a huge difference over the next few days. (Do NOT give aspirin to any child aged 18 years or younger without first consulting a doctor.)
- Avoid the sun until the pain and redness go away.
- Apply cool, damp cloth over the sunburn areas a few times a day for 10-15 minutes each time.
- Apply lotions with aloe vera in them to help soothe the skin and make it feel better.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids including water.
- If your sunburn is especially bad and you have blisters, do not pop them. Popping blisters could lead to more pain and even an infection.
- If you are feeling dizzy, weak, or sick, seek medical attention. This could be a sign your sunburn is more serious than you think. You can lose a lot of water through the blisters in your skin and this can be dangerous.
Bottom line: if you’re going to enjoy the outdoors this summer, be safe, be smart, and do your best not to burn.
Suurmond D. Section 10. Photosensitivity, Photo-Induced Disorders, and Disorders by Ionizing Radiation. In: Suurmond D, ed. Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas & Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=5185968.