Home|Blog | 6 Things to Know About Sunburns

6 Things to Know About Sunburns

We’ve all spent a little too much time under the scorching rays of the sun with too little sunscreen or other protection on. Because the skin’s reaction takes hours to develop, we don’t always realize that we are overcooked until it’s too late. When it comes to sunburns, there are many misconceptions about the effects of the sun on your health and about treatment options. Sharp Rees-Stealy Dermatologist Dr. Caroline Thornton uncovers six common myths about sunburns:

1. Does most sunburn damage happen before you are 18 years old, or are adults still at risk?
Although temporary, sunburns can cause long-lasting damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunburns during childhood are also correlated with the development of an increased number of pigmented moles. Some moles can become atypical and may be an indicator of increased risk for melanoma. Young children need to be protected and instructed on how to protect themselves.

2. Can you get sunburn on a cloudy day?
Cloud cover blocks the visible light but does not absorb UV radiation well, so be sure to apply sunscreen, even during the long days of “May Gray” and “June Gloom.”

3. Do “cooling products” help sunburns?
Cool baths followed by moisturizers containing aloe vera or soy can help soothe the pain. Hydrocortisone cream can also help relieve pain and is available without a prescription. Avoid treating a sunburn with “-caine” products such as benzocaine, which can cause an allergic reaction and can irritate the skin.

4. Should you put sunscreen on your burn to stop further damage to your skin?
Ideally, it is best to stay out of the sun after getting sunburned in order to allow the skin to heal. Applying broad-spectrum sunscreen to exposed areas and wearing sun-protective clothing can help prevent further damage.

5. Does your sunburn heal faster if you peel sunburned skin or break blisters?
Peeling skin will heal faster if it is moisturized. Picking off layers of skin, however, may make the area more prone to infection. Blisters form to help the skin heal and to protect from infection. It is best to leave the blister intact during the healing process.

6. Can oral medications reverse sunburn damage?
Once redness is present, the damage is done and inflammatory cascades are triggered. Non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin can, however, help to reduce redness, swelling and pain. Many medications make people more susceptible to sunburn, even to the UVA part of the spectrum. Be sure to check medication labels and take extra precautions with broad-spectrum sunscreens.

In order to prevent future sunburns, “Limit time in direct sun, especially midday,” Dr. Thornton suggests. “Wear broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing with long sleeves. Apply broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher on all skin that isn’t covered.”

You can go to mea.yourbesthealth.com to learn more about how to prevent skin cancer and to earn points towards a Best Health Visa gift card.