sunburn_first_aid_inside.jpgA sunburn happens when the body is exposed to too much of the sun or any other source of ultraviolet radiation (i.e., tanning beds). But how much is too much? Well, if you are light-skinned, you can get a sunburn in as little as 15 minutes of exposure, while it takes longer for those with a darker complexion. People who have darker complexions have more melanin in their skin, and this provides a natural form of sun protection. But just because you sport naturally tanned skin doesn’t mean you can afford to be casual about sun care.

The dangerous thing about sunburns is that the signs and symptoms may not show up for hours after the sun’s damage has already been done. How many of us have spent a day tanning under the sun and felt no bad effects by the day’s end, only to wake up the next day with redness, pain, and swelling in the exposed areas?

This summer, don’t forget to slather on sunblock before you hit the beach or if you plan to be outdoors for an extended period of time. But if you’ve forgotten to do so and end up with a bad case of sunburn, do the following immediately.


1. GET OUT OF THE SUN RIGHT AWAY.

Prolonging exposure when the burn is already present will only make things worse. The first sign of a sunburn is bright red skin that is painful when touched. If you start feeling this, seek shade immediately!


2. TAKE A COOL BATH OR SHOWER
.

Immersing yourself in a cool bath or standing under a cool shower will do wonders to lower your skin temperature. Just make sure that you use fresh water--chlorinated water (the type found in pools) or saltwater can aggravate a sunburn even further. If you’re unable to either take a bath or shower, you can also dab the affected areas with a clean towel that’s been dampened with cool water.


3. USE AFTER-SUN OINTMENTS OR GELS.

There are a lot of options for post-sun care. Most of these lotions or gels contain aloe vera, which is known to help with the bad effects of a sunburn. It’s a good idea to keep post-sun products in the refrigerator to help cool you down even faster. Apply it several times a day, taking care not to apply it to broken patches of skin. And whatever you do, do not apply butter, toothpaste, or other home remedies to your skin. Sunburned skin is more sensitive, and the ingredients in these unorthodox remedies might lead to an allergic reaction.


4. DON’T PICK AT OR PRICK BLISTERS.

Contrary to what you may think, popping blisters them will only delay the healing process, not speed it up. Open or popped blisters can become infected, and you may have to deal with more than just a sunburn if this happens. If blisters burst on their own, apply antibacterial ointment and keep the affected areas clean.


5. PAIN KILLERS CAN HELP

If the pain becomes too uncomfortable, an over-the-counter painkiller like ibuprofen can help make it bearable. But be more cautious when the sunburn victim is a child. Consult with a doctor before administering any painkillers. If the pain from your sunburn isn’t relieved or if you observe uncommon side effects, see a doctor right away to prevent complications.


(Photo by w00kie via Flickr Creative Commons)
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