Summer is here, and this is the prime time for sunburns. The staff at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands want to give you a quick reference guide for what to do if you or someone you know experiences a sunburn.
Above all else, once you have a sunburn, the first critical step is to avoid further injury by getting out of the sun and staying out of it until you are completely healed. Burns can develop in just a few hours in the sun, so keep a watchful eye for any signs or symptoms.
Extinguishing Your Sunburn
The typical appearance of sunburn is pink to red coloration of the skin that may include swelling and/or blistering with associated symptoms like itching, burning, stinging, or pain. Severe sunburns may also include systemic symptoms, such as
- feeling down and out (a general feeling commonly called malaise)
Most sunburns are mild and can be managed at home with some simple treatments that we will detail for you. However, the best dermatologists know that there are certain signs and symptoms you should watch out for that would drive you to seek immediate medical attention.
Here are some of the most common things you should be on the lookout for that would prompt you to seek immediate professional medical evaluation for your sunburn:
- sunburns covering a wide area of your skin, or
- extensive blistering
- systemic symptoms such as the ones we mentioned
- severe skin discomfort
- sunburns in young children, especially infants
So, what can you do for mild sunburns at home?
- The best over-the-counter remedy is hydrocortisone 1% ointment. This can be used anywhere on the skin and should be applied two to three times a day. The earlier it is used on sunburned areas, the better it can work. Most people will find that applying this for around 2-4 days can help a mild sunburn subside nicely.
- Other over-the-counter remedies that can reduce discomfort in a sunburn include aloe-containing gel/lotion, Sarna lotion, and calamine However, none of these have as strong of an anti-inflammatory effect as the hydrocortisone.
- Cool compresses used alone or in combination with any of these treatments may also help ease symptoms. To perform a cool compress, soak soft towels in cool tap water. Use these towels to wrap the affected areas, leaving them in place for up to a few hours. These may be used two to three times a day for your symptoms.
- Consider drinking extra water, as this may also help and keep you well hydrated.
- It is important not to pop any blisters. Leaving the blisters alone reduces the risk of developing an infection.
- A periodic cool bath or shower may help with the discomfort.
- Use a good moisturizing cream often (like Vanicream or CeraVe cream) especially once a sunburn starts to heal.
- Finally, taking ibuprofen may also help relieve some of your discomfort and swelling.
Remember, if ever in doubt about the severity level of the sunburn, you should seek medical attention immediately. Even if you have what you think is a mild sunburn and your symptoms or the appearance of your sunburn worsens over the course of the first 1-2 days, you should also seek medical attention.
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As for skincare specialists, we are the biggest proponent of utilizing protective measures when it comes to the sun.
Basic Sun Protective Measures
- use sunscreen
- seek the shade
- avoid the sun/minimize sun exposure during the peak daylight hours (10 am-6 pm)
- wear a broad-brimmed hat as well as sun-protective clothing
- never intentionally attempt to tan, either in the sun or a tanning bed
Also, keep in mind that some medications can make you more susceptible to getting a sunburn. Some of the common categories of these are certain antibiotics, some blood pressure pills, many of the medications to treat acne, as well as numerous others. Individuals on such medications should exercise extra caution when out in the sun.
Look out for a follow-up blog from us coming soon with more detail on ways you can protect yourself from the sun, reducing risk of sunburn, as well as premature aging and skin cancer.
We hope you have fun and stay safe this summer!
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
We hope to host an open house and free skin cancer screening in Omaha, NE sometime in the fall, once social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures are appropriately relaxed. In the meantime, for your convenience and availability please consider seeing us at this new clinical location in Omaha. Call us at (402) 933-3770 for more information or contact us to schedule a consultation.