You're excited for the summer getaway you've waited months for. The swimsuit is packed, and so are the cute summer dresses and sleeveless tops and shorts, so you're not sweating under too much heavy cloth. But don't forget your rash guard, umbrella, and most especially, sunscreen too! After all, every year, over 33,000 cases of sunburn led to visits to the emergency room. Sunburn is an inflammatory response that results from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and the more severe cases include symptoms like blistering and pain. Sunburns can be slow to develop, sometimes taking hours before you notice them. But the moment you do notice your sunburn, you should first identify its severity so you know what steps you should take.
3 Kinds of Sunburn to Look Out For
First-degree A minor burn, also called superficial skin burn, is the most common type of sunburn. The skin is red and dry, and feels tight and sore. Other symptoms that can accompany it are headaches, fatigue, and nausea. Skin can peel a few days after exposure, but it can heal within a week.
Second-degree This is also called superficial partial-thickness burn. The skin is deep red and shiny. There’s blistering and swelling over a large area, together with white discoloration within the burned area. It can take around a month to heal. You may also end up with symptoms of sun poisoning, such as nausea and fever.
Third-degree This is also known as full-thickness burn, but it’s very rare to get from the sun. This burn involves completely dead skin, causing whitish or dull skin color. The burn may not be painful because the nerve endings in the skin are destroyed. It can take weeks to heal and will cause scarring.
What to Do if You Have Sunburn
Leaving your sunburn to heal on its own can be dangerous as it dries your skin and can result in dehydration. Worse symptoms like blisters can cause infection, and discoloration can point to dead cells. As such, here are some things to immediately do once you’ve discovered sunburn:
Do first aid Before rushing to the hospital, do some home remedies to soothe your sunburnt skin. Taking a cool shower, applying cool compresses, and putting aloe or OTC moisturizer on the skin can cool and soothe it. However, leave blisters alone (get help) and protect your skin from more sun exposure. You should also rehydrate since sunburns can cause dehydration.
Consult a medical professional A first-degree sunburn isn't a cause for alarm so you can do some home remedies. But if you want more advice on second- and third-degree burns, consult with a medical professional. Your first port of call will likely be nurses, and they are more than qualified to help you. That means they can provide reliable primary care and will attend to your sunburn symptoms, like blisters, nausea, and pain. Primary care nurses can also prescribe necessary medication, like hydrocortisone cream to ease the itching and swelling and ibuprofen to relieve the pain.
For second- and third-degree burns, you can ease them the same way you’d soothe first-degree burns. However, you should see a doctor to get further advice and treatment. You may be given specialist burn cream and burn dressing. Depending on the severity of your burns and symptoms, you may also receive hospital treatment where they can control shivering and fever. They can also check for signs of sun poisoning, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion.
How To Prevent Sunburn
Experiencing too many sunburns puts you at risk for skin cancer. It can also cause precancerous skin lesions and premature aging of the skin. To protect yourself from sunburns and the resulting complications, here are a few things you should do:
Wear sunscreen Wearing sunscreen on sunny days is a given, but UV rays also pass through clouds, so you should apply sunscreen regardless of the weather. Opt for broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and remember to reapply every two hours. You should also apply a lip balm with SPF as lips have thin skin with little melanin, so they have minimal protection against the sun.
Cover up If you can see light through fabric, UV rays will be able to get through as well. Fortunately, there are UPF washes you can use to give clothes some UV protection. If you can handle the heat, you can opt for long sleeves and pants or long skirts to cover as much skin as possible. Aside from this, a cap and umbrella gives extra protection too.
Whether you should see a healthcare professional for your sunburn depends on the type that developed on your skin. If the symptoms persist and the pain doesn't go away, it is definitely cause for concern and you should get medical help immediately. That said, it's always better to be proactive with your skin health and apply sunscreen regularly.
Article was specially written for tizoskin.com by Anne Woods