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Save Your Skin: How to Prevent and Treat Sunburns

Imagine this: it's a beautiful, warm, summer day. The sun is shining, and you are relaxing in your lounge chair, determined to take advantage of that fantastic glow. You decide to spend some time working on your tan, only to feel your skin getting hotter and increasingly red by the minute. You touch your skin and, ouch! It's swollen, irritated, and sore.

You now have the classic beginning of a sunburn.

So, what actually is a sunburn and how do you get one?

Well, when your skin is exposed to the sun for a certain period of time, it becomes red, tender, irritated, and eventually, it burns.

How soon a sunburn begins varies on your skin type, the strength of the sun, and how long you have been exposed to the sun's rays.

The symptoms of a sunburn include: 

1.    Skin redness

2.    Soreness or tenderness when you touch your skin

3.    Swelling

4.    Blisters

5.    And in more severe cases, flu-like symptoms, such as: fever (or a feverish feeling accompanied by chills), nausea, headache, and lethargy.

As your body works hard to detoxify itself of sun-damaged cells, you will begin to notice your skin start to peel and itch, as it tries to regenerate new tissue. 

You might be thinking, "so my skin might just get a little red and hurt for a few days, what's the harm?"

Did you know that sunburns, while their explanation may seem simple, can be much more complicated than just reaching the outside layer of your skin? The sun gives off three wavelengths of ultraviolet light called: UVA, UVB, and UVC. While UVC doesn't reach the Earth's surface, UVA and UVB do, and can cause some serious damage on and beneath the surface of your skin. 

UVA and UVB light not only contributes to the painful sting of a sunburn, but they also work underneath your skin to alter and damage your DNA, thus, leading to premature aging of the skin, and worse, skin cancer, which can be fatal if not treated properly. 

But, there is great news. You can prevent sunburns easily, and if you do find yourself with one, you can treat it fairly simply as well!

Sunburn Prevention

Before relaxing in the sun, applying SUNSCREEN is KEY! Be sure to choose a brand of sunscreen that will be most effective for you and your family's skin type, as well as a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Ideally, your sunscreen should have an SPF - or sun protection factor - of at least 30, and for extra protection, your sunscreen should be water resistant. 

Once you have an effective sunscreen, be sure to follow the tips below to ensure your safety while having fun in the sun!

·         Cover any exposed skin liberally with sunscreen.

·         Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside.

·         Re-apply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are sweating, or swimming. 

·         Use sunscreen even on cloudy, overcast days, as UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds. 

·         If possible, avoid being exposed to the sun between the hours of 11am - 4pm. During that time, the sun's rays are the strongest and can cause the most damage. 

·         If you have to be outdoors during that time, it is best to wear sun-protective clothing such as: a hat with a broad brim to protect both your scalp and your face, a long sleeved shirt and pants, and UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes. 

Sunburn Treatment

Now, if you do find yourself with a pesky sunburn, there are several ways to treat it and get some relief! 

·         Cold Compresses & Cool Baths: both will soothe the burning sensation.

·         Creams, Gels, or Aloe: to take the sting out of your sunburn, use products containing aloe, camphor, or menthol, and apply it to your skin as needed. My favorite product to use is Solarcaine Burn Gel with Extra Aloe. It's a very powerful sunburn treatment made to soothe not only sunburns, but other irritations as well. Do not use if allergic to any of it’s ingredients.

·         NSAIDs: including ibuprofen or naproxen, these medications will help with pain and inflammation all over your body.

·         Stay Hydrated: a sunburn can quickly dehydrate you, so be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids to prevent any dehydration. 

As with any medical condition, always consult with your doctor before treating on your own. Remember to also contact your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms such as: a fever that is 102 degrees and above, chills, severe pain, blisters that cover more than 20% of your body, dry mouth, extreme thirst, reduced urination, dizziness, nausea, or fatigue, which are all symptoms of dehydration.

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