Updated: Mar 13, 2022
Sunburn. How To Prevent And What To Do If Already Burnt
Who hasn’t experienced sunburn? I myself have been stupid enough to not only let myself burn on multiple occasions, but to the point of blistering twice when I was young. Any severity of sunburn is a pretty grim experience and can really put a downer on your holiday. Not only is it very painful, it is also rather embarrassing - like having a huge sign on you to spot the pale and pasty newcomer to the beach! If you are here doing research before your holiday, and are looking for prevention methods, do emphasise the importance of prevention by reading the scary stats below. If its too late and you’re reading this whilst soaking your poor body that is already fried to a crisp in Aloe Vera, don’t skip ahead to treatments quite yet, you clearly need a dose of common sense.
Why Is Sunburn Dangerous
Sunburn is also dangerous, do not under estimate the possible repercussions from what seems to be a temporary discomfort. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that children or adolescents who burn to the point of blistering on just one occasion, increases their chances of melanoma (skin cancer) by more than double. Furthermore, Cancer Research statistics state a rather terrifying rise of 140% in skin cancer cases in the last 20 years. Ladies, your highest risk areas are your legs, but men are most likely to develop skin cancer in the trunk. Please get any new moles checked by your GP and be vigilant with any changes to existing moles. Skin cancer isn’t all you have to worry about, the immediate effects of sunburn can be pretty severe also, along with the obvious pain, discomfort and embarrassment, you may also be risking;
Skin infections - any skin that has been burnt has damaged the protective barrier your skin provides. Bacteria now has a much easier way to get inside and cause its havoc. Look out for any swelling, or additional red marks and pus coming from any open areas of skin. Seek medical attention if you have signs of infection.
Dehydration/sunstroke - having sunburn increases your bodies demand of fluids, drink, drink and then drink some more (no, not alcohol), you have just damaged your bodies biggest organ (skin) don’t risk your kidneys too. Signs of dehydration/sunstroke can be, feeling faint, headache, dizzy, cold, shivery, palpitations, confusion, reduced urine output, nausea, and diarrhoea.
Most sunburn can be managed at home and there are various remedies available, but do seek medical attention for any of the more serious signs of dehydration/sunstroke and/or if you have burnt yourself to the point of blistering. A rapid pulse is a good indicator of dehydration and also a high temperature if you do not carry your own thermometer - use your smart watch and check your resting heart rate, if more than 110 - 120 you may need further medical attention. Small children, the elderly and pregnant ladies are at even higher risk of developing complications from excessive sun exposure - please be particularly careful and seek medical advice early.
How To Prevent Sunburn
Unsurprisingly my first bit of advice is to wear sun cream. I personally wear a foundation with SPF all year round, but ensure I apply at least a factor 30 when out in the sun for longer than an hour. A good sun cream and its level of protection is not solely down to its ‘factor’ number, perhaps more importantly is the UVA star rating given - aim for at least a four star rating. Apply before you leave home, and again within half an hour and don’t forget to reapply regularly throughout the day, particularly when swimming - even if your cream claims to be waterproof - don’t neglect your ears and nose.
Wear sunglasses to lessen your chances of photokeratitis and cataracts. Polarised glasses with UV protection are your best bet. Invest in a good pair of glasses!
Pay particularly care to any scars, apply a liberal amount of sun cream regularly and ideally keep completely covered. Scars burn easily and have an even higher chance of developing skin cancer.
Wear a hat, a burnt scalp is not funny. A hat made from natural fibres will be less uncomfortable and sweaty when wearing for longer periods.
Drink regularly, even if you’re not getting burnt you will still dehydrate quickly in the heat.
Consider keeping a shirt on, at least for part of the day.
Be aware you can still burn in the shade and even on a cloudy day.
Listen to your body, get out of the sun if you are feeling excessively tired, nauseous or have a headache.
The wind is not your friend, don’t let it fool you into thinking you’re not burning.
Don’t rely on the sea to protect you either, water can actually increase the effects of the sun by up to 50%
Consider a Spanish style lengthy lunch, take a relaxing few hours off during the hottest part of the day and perhaps chuck in a siesta - indoors
Ice cream and ice lollies and cold drinks can help regulate your body temperature and hydrate you at the same time.
If you are keen on braving a nudist beach, reconsider risking sunburn on any exposed genitals, ouch!
What To Do For Sunburn
After-sun cream can help sooth the burning and soreness associated with sunburn. It may be possible to source an after-sun containing topical anaesthetic which will help to numb the effected areas.
Pure Aloe Vera can also be very moisturising and cooling - but check the bottle for any added perfumes. Aloe Vera gel can also be harvested directly from the plant if you’re fortunate enough to have one near.
Moisturise when skin is still damp after a cool bath or shower to help to lock in the moisture.
Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can help with the pain.
Cover any sun-burnt skin when outside, do not risk further sun exposure to that area.
Drink, drink, drink... did I say that already?
What will an emergency department give you for sunburn?
Aspirin and Viagra. Aspirin for the pain, and Viagra to keep the sheets off your legs!! Don’t forget, skin exposure can speed up the appearance of wrinkles!
If you have found this article helpful, I would love to hear about it, drop a comment below. Please feel free to share the wisdom!