What to Do For a Sunburn

The key to sunburn treatment is to act fast. Here are some tips for minimizing the pain and damage to your skin.

Get out of the sun. It can take up to six hours for the full effects of a sunburn to make themselves known, which is why you should get out of the sun the minute you start to see any redness on your skin or sense you might be getting burned. You want to stop the burning before it gets any worse.

Hydrate. Sun exposure and sunburn cause the body to lose fluids, which is why any sunburn treatment must include rehydration. Drink plenty of water before, during and after spending time in the sun. This may also help minimize the wrinkles that follow a sunburn.

Moisturize. Applying a cream, lotion or gel is another way to put moisture back into your skin following a sunburn, and may help to reduce the noticeability of your peeling skin as it starts to slough off. A moisturizing lotion is an important component of sunburn treatment for another crucial reason: It can help to temporarily soothe any pain, tingling or burning sensations. Also, it will help to take frequent cool showers or baths to alleviate pain symptoms.

Medicate. Over-the-counter medicines can be very helpful as part of your sunburn treatment. For example, hydrocortisone cream can be applied topically as an anti-inflammatory agent. Ibuprofen a good option for the first 48 hours after a sunburn — it’s capable of reducing swelling, redness and pain.

Rest. Don’t overexert yourself; lie down, preferably with a wash cloth soaked in cold water placed upon your sunburn. Wear loose-fitting clothing over the sunburned areas and avoid any activities that involve applying pressure to your skin.

Seek help. If you’ve suffered a severe burn, if your sunburn covers a fourth of your body, or if you have a fever or chills, see your doctor immediately for sunburn treatment.

It’s very important you also know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, rapid or erratic breathing and a too-fast or too-weak pulse. Heat exhaustion should be interpreted as potentially a precursor to heat stroke.

Heat stroke occurs when the body reaches an internal temperature greater than 105 F (40 C) because the body is overheated and can no longer regulate its own temperature. Symptoms of heat stroke include dry skin, racing pulse, lack of perspiration and dizziness.

Image via Andrew Hart on Flickr

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