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Sunburn Care 101

Written by Courteney

Posted on July 20, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Sunburns are among the most commonly suffered summer afflictions. They can range from minor burns causing irritation for a couple days, to severe sunburns which may consist of painful blisters. It is important to know the dangers of sunburns, and to be able to properly assess your sunburn to determine if you need medical treatment or can simply take care of it with remedies and basic first-aid-kit measures.

Can Sunburns Cause Skin Cancer?

Yes, sunburns can contribute to the development of skin cancer. A sunburn (or even suntan) results from overexposure to harmful ultraviolet rays, usually from the sun. Severe sunburns cause irreparable damage to skin cells which can lead to skin cancer. Even minor sunburns can cause problems down the line if UV ray overexposure continues. According to the American Cancer Society, a person’s risk of contracting skin cancer nearly doubles if they have sustained 5 or more sunburns in the past. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Over 3.5 million cases are treated annually in the United States, many of which can be attributed (at least in part) to sun damage.

What Other Risks Can Sunburns Pose?

Aside from increasing your skin cancer risk, sunburns can also cause other serious complications such as severe skin blistering and burns, dehydration, loss of fluids and even skin or systemic infection if left unchecked. In rare and extreme cases serious sunburns can even lead to shock or death if not treated.

When To Seek Medical Attention for a Sunburn

If your sunburn goes beyond the usual redness and irritation, it may be worth getting a checkup. According to Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson, if you are experiencing fever, chills, headache or pain, vomiting or diarrhea, excessive sweating, pus or other signs of skin infection be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Tips To Soothe The Burn

Luckily most sunburns do not require medical attention and respond well to at-home treatments. Some remedies that have proven effective for treating minor sunburns include:

  • Retreat from the sun’s wrath – This may seem like an obvious one, but sometimes people don’t take the hints their bodies give them. If you notice you’ve been burned, get inside as soon as you can as further sun will only worsen the burn.
  • Cold on Hot – Apply a cold compress (not ice cold) to the effected skin to help reduce or prevent inflammation. A cold shower is also a good idea to help cool off the skin.
  • Aloe Vera to the rescue – You’ve probably already heard that Aloe Vera, known as the “burn plant” can actually help reduce severity and speed up sunburn recovery.
  • Moisturize – It can help to replenish some of the moisture lost by your skin by applying a gentle skin moisturizer.
  • Reach for the NSAIDs – Try OTC anti-inflammatories to help bring down some of the inflammation and help decrease pain and discomfort in the first couple days of healing.
  • Hydrate – Bad sunburns can suck moisture and even electrolytes from the body so it is important to replenish lost fluids!
  • Be gentle as you heal – Try wearing loose fitting clothing, and patting your skin dry after a shower instead of rubbing it. Being gentle will help your skin heal faster.
  • Try cucumber or green tea – Cucumber and green tea both have soothing, anti-inflammatory properties, so applying a cooled green tea compress or sliced cucumber piece to the effected area may help reduce discomfort.
  • Take extra precautions Since your skin has been damaged, you definitely want to avoid future sunburns or irritation to that area, be sure to apply 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen to exposed skin whenever you are outside, reapplying every 2 hours. For more sunburn prevention tips check out our Summer Skincare

Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions about sunburns or are concerned about how your burn is healing feel free to sign up today for a video consultation with one of our highly qualified, board certified DocChat physicians.



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