Sunburn Treatment: What To Do When It's Bad

Here, some tips on suburn treatment that will reduce the pain while it fades.

Sunburn is one of the biggest problems with enjoying the hot summer sun. It hurts quite a bit and it damages the skin. Research has linked sunburns with skin cancer later in life, so the best thing to do is to try to prevent them. Sometimes, however, no matter how hard one tries to avoid it, sunburn still happens. Afterwards, there are several things you can do to reduce the pain.

To attempt to prevent a first (or further) sunburn, always cover the entire body with 30 SPF sunscreen (some studies have shown that higher SPFs don't work well, but this isn't proven) half an hour before entering the sun. Make sure to get the creases and folds in the skin, where it's easy to miss, but more painful if it gets sunburned. If you go in the water for an extended period of time (especially if you rub your skin to dry it), reapply the sunscreen. Check for signs of burning every hour or two. These include reddish skin and skin that is hot to the touch when in a shaded area. If blistering occurs, severe burns have already occurred and one should get out of the sun as soon as possible.

Once a sunburn has occurred, nothing can get rid of it but time. However, there are many different methods to reduce pain. Stay out of the sun for awhile! Try taking some oral painkillers first (tylenol, ibuprofen, or even aspirin). There are also products, such as Solarcaine, which are sprayed or rubbed onto the affected area for a cooling and pain killing effect.

Immediately upon getting out of the sun, wash the skin to remove all traces of sunscreen. Dry skin gently, without rubbing. No matter what's done, don't irritate the skin anymore than it already is, particularly in areas where the skin is softer, like the face, or anywhere on small children.

After the skin is clean, any of the Solarcaine-type products can be used. The spray is very cold and may be hard for some people to stand. There's also an aloe-containing gel that is less cold (but still cooling, especially on hot, red skin) but easier to deal with for many. However, putting the gel on requires touching the area, which may hurt. Both the spray and the gel contain up to .5% lidocaine as their active ingredient. Both products may also irritate the skin further if left on for extended periods of time (due to stickiness). It is not recommended to use these products except in the first hours following sunburn, if at all.

The best thing to do is to re-moisturize your skin and keep it that way while the sunburn heals. Start with oatmeal baths once or twice a day. The products that are on the market for chicken pox will work well for sunburn. These help by soothing the skin and adding moisture to it. While in the bath, the pain may disappear almost completely, and it should be reduced some afterwards, especially if used in combination with oral medications (which should be taken as infrequently as possible). This oatmeal adds "ňúnatural moisture,' which is what you should aim for in lotions as well.

After oatmeal baths, the skin should be generously coated with lotion and allowed to absorb as much as it can. Most of the lotions found in the drugstore contain mineral oil and/or lanolin as their main moisturizing ingredients. These are very heavy moisturizers which is sometimes hard for the skin to absorb. (Baby lotion contains mineral oil.) Also, they tend to leave a greasy feeling that many people feel compelled to wipe off.

What is better is lotion that is made with natural plant extracts as its main ingredients. This makes for a lighter moisturizer that is more easily absorbed. Coat still-damp (not dripping) skin with so much lotion that it feels greasy to the touch. Wait five or ten minutes for the lotion to be either absorbed or evaporated - most of it will be absorbed. Lotion can also be put on at other times when there is pain in specific areas in order to ease the pain.

The baths should be continued for three or four days, until the redness begins to fade and the pain is lessened. The oral pain killers should be stopped as soon as possible. The lotion should be continued for a week or two, because even after the pain fades, the skin is not done healing. It will begin peeling within five days or so in order to expose the healthy skin underneath. Don't pick at this if at all possible. If the skin gets torn away from areas where it is not specifically peeling naturally (such as when you pull a piece off and it's covered an area far greater than where the white, flaking skin was), it will hurt, because the skin wasn't ready to be exposed yet. Keep putting the lotion all over your skin, especially in the sunburned areas. It may hurt to do this in the areas of newly peeled skin, especially if pulled off prematurely.

Within a couple of weeks the pain of sunburn will be only a memory. The best thing to do is to coat yourself with sunscreen so as not to have a repeat episode of sunburn. Remember, it IS a burn, and it does increase your chances of skin cancer every time your skin gets damaged in such a way. Prevention is the answer, but these are some things you can do in case sunburn does happen.

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