Although it may seem like a temporary condition, sunburn—a result of skin receiving too much exposure from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays—can cause long-lasting damage to the skin. This damage increases a person’s risk for getting skin cancer, making it critical to protect the skin from the sun.
Unlike a thermal burn, sunburn is not immediately apparent. Symptoms usually start about 4 hours after sun exposure, worsen in 24-36 hours, and resolve in 3-5 days.
Symptoms may include:
- Red, warm, and tender skin
- Swollen skin
The pain from sunburn is worse 6-48 hours after sun exposure. Skin peeling usually begins 3-8 days after exposure.
- Take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain. apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin. This can help ease the dryness.
- apply a hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription. Do not treat sunburn with “-caine” products (such as benzocaine), as these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.
- Consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers to help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.
- Drink extra water. A sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. Drinking extra water when you are sunburned helps prevent dehydration.
- If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal. Blistering skin means you have a second-degree sunburn. You should not pop the blisters, as blisters form to help your skin heal and protect you from infection.
- Take extra care to protect sunburned skin while it heals. Wear clothing that covers your skin when outdoors. Tightly-woven fabrics work best.
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