Dont Burn In The Sun... But if you do

Jun 25, 2014

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

The next couple of weeks are my favorite time of the year. Dauphin will be buzzing with Dauphins Countryfest and the Dauphin Fair this upcoming weekend. July 3-6 will be Winnipegosis Family Fun Weekend. People are also at the lake, at their campsite or out on the water fishing. No matter what your summer plans are, make sure you cover up with a hat, sunglasses and of course sunscreen. We all know the damaging effects of the sun and the consequences sunburn can have. However; it is inevitable there will be red skin and lobster burns over the weekend.

If you get a little too much sun here is some advice for treating sunburn. It is very important to identify and treat sunburn quickly, which is sometimes difficult because we do not feel burnt, any tingling, or see the redness right away. Sunburn symptoms can take as long as four to six hours to develop. Remember a touch of pink is the beginning of a sun burn that will only progress. If you think you are burning get out of the sun immediately. Unfortunately we often ignore these early warning signs and end up staying in the sun much too long.

The first step to treating sunburn is to moisturize. Take a cool shower or bath and then use a moisturizing lotion to sooth the skin. This will minimize the flaking and peeling of the skin and make it much less noticeable. Moisturizing products contain various and vitamins and minerals, which are advertised to be better than the next, but there is not a lot of evidence one is better than the other. Vitamin E may help the skin heal, but its degree of effectiveness is not scientifically proven. The crucial factor is to apply frequently to soothe the skin. Make sure to avoid products with scented oils or perfumes, as they can further irritate the skin. Unfortunately if you have sunburn, skin peeling is almost inevitable. Be sure to not pick or peel off the skin.

Cold compresses using cool water or water mixed with milk will ease the burning sensation and reduce pain. Aloe Vera gels are available at the pharmacy, are inexpensive and have a good cooling effect; while potentially helping the skin recover from the burn faster. Most importantly they may help you get through a long night of sunburnt sleep!

If the burn is significant it is sometimes acceptable to try using a mild steroid cream for up to a couple of days to relieve discomfort. The cream, such as hydrocortisone can reduce the redness, itching and irritation but their effect is often minimal. They work better for sun rashes and irritations than actual burns.

Sunburn can be very painful and usually we look for something to relieve the pain by applying it on the sunburn. However; over the counter, oral pain medications can be very effective. Using ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for 48 hours will decrease pain and the limit swelling and redness from the burn. Using acetaminophen (Tylenol) is effective for pain but does not have an anti-inflammatory effect like ibuprofen or naproxen.

We often forget about becoming dehydrated after too much sun exposure; however, a burn will draw fluid to the skin and away from the rest of the body. If you combine alcohol into this scenario the risk of dehydration or heat stroke is even more severe. Ensure you are drinking extra fluids and monitor for severe dry mouth, headache and dizziness. For all the Countryfesters out there make sure to take lots of water to your campsite. Be sure to drink at least two bottles of water in the morning and in the evening.

While minor burns can be treated successfully at home, severe sunburns need a doctors attention. If a blistering burn covers more than 20-25% of the body medical attention is necessary. If fever and chills accompany the burn you should also see first aid or a physician.

If you do get sunburn it should be a lesson and a warning to NOT do it again. Remember to always use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, cover up with clothing and stay in the shade between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Keep in mind your childrens skin is even more sensitive and you need to take all precautions so they do not burn.

The Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy would like to send big congratulations to all of the volunteers at Dauphins Countryfest, the Dauphin Agricultural Society Fair and all the other festivals going on this summer in the Parkland. Thank you for your hard work and dedication toward these events. To see the festivals and summer events the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy supports please visit our Facebook page.


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