Soothe that sunburn

Posted on 14 January 2016

Sunburn usually takes us by surprise. Somewhere between swimming and spending the day outdoors we realise that our sun-blushed skin is turning a scary shade of red and we are filled with stinging regret.

That fact is that nobody plans to go out and get sunburnt, but it’s imperative that we plan not to get sunburnt when spending time out in the summer sun (or even sometimes the winter sun for that matter). Fair-skinned individuals with blue eyes are most at risk of sunburn as well as people on certain types of medication, such as for hypertension or acne, or with certain diseases such as connective tissue disease. It’s important to know and understand your risk factors to help you determine your required sun protection factor. All of us can develop sunburn to a degree, but the amount of time it takes to develop sunburn differs from person to person, as does the severity.

So when it comes to sunburn, prevention is always better than cure. Long term, sunburn can lead to photo ageing and wrinkling which will give you a dull, sallow complexion. It also dramatically increases your risk of developing skin cancers such as basal-cell carcinomas and melanomas. You can minimise the harm the sun can do to your skin by covering up when you go outside. Wear sunscreen, hats and long sleeves and avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm when sun intensity is at its strongest. However, dermatologist Dr Fredah Maleka of Mediclinic Medforum in Pretoria cautions that short periods in the sun are necessary for the body to make vitamin D so complete avoidance of the sun is not advised. Here’s what she does advise to treat sunburn, should you be taken by surprise by this painful condition.

For starters – The minute you notice sunburn developing move away from the sun and cool the affected area with cold, moist cloths or a cool shower or bath.
At home – Moisturise the skin with non-irritating moisturisers such aqueous cream, aloe vera or vitamin E oil. Drink lots of water to rehydrate and if the skin is painful, take anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen to decrease the swelling, redness and pain.
Get help – See a doctor if your sunburn is making you feel unwell or if there is severe blistering.
Later on – Leave blisters or peeling alone. Peeling is an unavoidable consequence of sunburn and will inevitably follow if your skin becomes red from sun exposure.

Published in Dermatology

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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One Response to “Soothe that sunburn”

  1. megan says:

    testing conditions

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