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Treating a Sunburn

Q. How do I treat a sunburn?

A. In case you forget to cover up and apply sunscreen, the resulting sunburn can be painful as well as dangerous. There are several types of burns and burn treatments.

Remember that you may not immediately see the effects of overexposure to the sun. It may take up to 24 hours before the full damage is visible.

The two most common are first-degree burns and second degree burns.

First-degree sunburns cause redness and will heal, possibly with some peeling, within a few days. These can be painful and are best treated with cool baths and bland moisturizers or over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams.

Avoid the use of "-caine" products (such as benzocaine), which may cause sensitivity to a broad range of important chemicals. Aspirin taken orally may lessen early development of sunburn.

Second degree sunburns blister and can be considered a medical emergency if a large area is affected.

When a burn is severe, accompanied by a headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help right away.

Be sure to protect your skin from the sun while it heals and thereafter.

Most studies have found an association between sunburn and enhanced risk for melanoma, particularly if you suffered severe childhood or adolescent sunburn since there is more time for melanoma to develop over your lifetime.

From the American Academy of Dermatology

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