Shield Yourself From the Sun

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SATURDAY, Aug. 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Although sunscreen and clothing provide some protection against the sun's harmful UV rays, sunburns can still happen.

It's important to learn how to recognize early warning signs of a sunburn and begin treating it right away, according to Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in New Jersey.

The first sign of sunburn is a tingling sensation on the skin, Davis warned. Anyone who notices this symptom should get out of the sun as soon as possible, he advised in a medical center news release.

Davis also offered the following tips to soothe sunburned skin:

  • Place a cold, damp towel on the skin for 10 or 15 minutes. Repeat this process a few times throughout the day.
  • Apply a moisturizer that contains aloe vera to the affected skin. Avoid any creams that contain petroleum, which could trap heat in the skin. It's also a good idea to steer clear of any products that contain benzocaine, or lidocaine, which could irritate the skin. Davis added that hydrocortisone (steroid) cream could help ease discomfort by reducing inflammation.
  • Taking ibuprofen could also help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with sunburn.
  • Be sure to stay hydrated. Drinking extra water can help the skin heal.
  • Do not touch blisters. Blisters form to help the skin underneath heal. Popping or peeling them away removes this protective barrier, and could increase the risk for infection.
  • Cover up. As sunburned skin heals, be sure to wear clothing that protects it from additional sun exposure. Tightly woven fabrics work best, Davis noted. This means that when it is held up to light, clothing should not allow light to pass through.

In more severe cases of sunburn and dehydration, people can develop sun poisoning. Anyone with the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Intense pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Severe blistering
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting

Sun poisoning may be treated with IV fluids, ibuprofen for pain, and steroids to reduce inflammation. The burned skin may also need to be monitored for signs of a serious skin infection, known as cellulitis. Cellulitis must be treated with antibiotics and may require an overnight stay in the hospital.

Sunburn could not only damage the skin, but also increase people's risk for skin cancer, Davis cautioned. He advised all people to wear sunscreen and be aware of the sun strength included in the daily weather report.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on sun safety.


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