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Surviving a Sunburn

September 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer Hanes, DO

A sunburn can be miserable, but these tips will help you recover quicker with less pain. Prevention is always the best cure, such as wearing sunscreen amd protective clothing and remaining in the shade. However, if you or your child have been burned, there are simple home treatments to help.

The most important tip is to stay hydrated. This means drinking lots of water, juice, and sports drinks. For grownups, don’t drink alcohol as it is a diuretic. The sunburned skin loses a lot of water through evaporation, and your body requires additional fluids to heal the damaged areas. Sunburns can often be associated with mild nausea, which is often relieved by properly hydrating. Unless you have been advised by your doctor to restrict your fluid intake, most people benefit by doubling their daily amount of liquid. If you usually drink six glasses of water a day, for a severe sunburn you should be getting around 12 glasses of fluid. The best way to gauge adequate intake is by monitoring your urine color. If it appears yellow, you need to drink more water. In a well-hydrated body, the urine should be almost clear. For children, be creative to encourage fluids. Try offering them slushies, snow cones, popsicles, and smoothies.

For discomfort caused by the sunburn, over-the-counter aspirin is usually the best relief for adults. However, aspirin should be avoided for children.  For children, ibuprofen or acetaminophen is recommended for pain relief. As always, follow the directions and warnings on the label.

For immediate relief, aloe vera applied to the skin often helps take away the sting of the burn. The gel consistency is preferable to thick lotions because the gel allows your skin to properly cool. If you experience any blisters do not open them. They serve as a cushion while the skin under the blister heals. Be gentle with them and allow them to help your body recover from the burn. When the blisters open, apply an antibiotic ointment, such as bacitracin, to help remain free of infection. Any foul smell, purulent drainage, increasing pain or redness should be evaluated by your physician.

You may also find relief by using an over-the-counter steroid cream, such as 1% hydrocortisone, to help with itching and discomfort. This cream should only be used for a few days and is only recommended for adults and children over three years of age. If your child is younger than three and has a sunburn causing discomfort you need to contact your physician.

When else should you call your doctor about a sunburn? Always call 911 for fainting, changes in vision, or seizures. If your pain or nausea is not controlled with over-the-counter medications, you should also seek medical attention from your physician. The greater the area of the sunburn increases the likelihood you may experience more symptoms like nausea, dehydration, headache and even slight fever, thus for large burns you should also seek medical treatment.

It is imperative to avoid direct exposure in the sun while you are healing from a burn. Be extra careful on cloudy days as the clouds may reflect the light, increasing the sun exposure. Also be aware of being close to bodies of water or sitting by a metal surface (like a canoe) because they can also increase the sun’s effects as well.  And next time, prevent the burn.

Bio: Dr. Jennifer Hanes is a board certified emergency and forensic physician in Austin, Texas. She shares her motherhood journey through Mommy MD Guides. She has lost 70 pounds, and she outlines those secrets in her eBook, Lady In Weighting. You can learn more at www.DrHanes.com


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The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.