Sunburn: how to care for your skin

We have all forgotten to protect our skin from excessive sun exposure at some time or other and paid a heavy price for it. A sunburn is sometimes a harsh reminder of our carelessness that can last a few hours, and oftentimes, a few days.

A sunburn: a skin wound

We have all forgotten to protect our skin from excessive sun exposure at some time or other and paid a heavy price for it. A sunburn is sometimes a harsh reminder of our carelessness that can last a few hours, and oftentimes, a few days.

A sunburn is nothing more than a burn, damage made to the skin by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. In this day and age, getting a sunburn is often perceived either as a sign of negligence or of carelessness.

The symptoms of a sunburn, which appear in the hours following sun exposure, typically include redness, swelling and a feeling of discomfort, pain, burning sensation, warmth to the touch, and general malaise. In more serious cases, blisters or peeling skin are observed in the days that follow. A sunburn can sometimes be accompanied by fever.

Certain people are more at risk of getting a sunburn; for example, those who have light-coloured skin or hair and who live in very sunny regions or who take certain medications that can make skin more sensitive to the sun.

As is the case for any wound affecting the integrity of the skin, a sunburn requires first aid treatment.

The importance of prevention

We sometimes forget the importance of protecting our skin from the sun, especially in winter or on cloudy days. It's important to keep in mind that sun rays pass through the clouds and are reflected by certain surfaces such as snow, sand, and water. Therefore, sun protection should be a priority regardless of the season, weather forecast, and type of outdoor activity.

Of course, exposure to the rays of a tanning bed can also cause a sunburn. Additionally, overexposure to ultraviolet rays (whether or not they originate from a natural source) can be at the root of other skin problems such as premature aging of the skin and some types of cancers.

Limiting exposure to rays is the best way to prevent a sunburn. The use of a quality sunscreen is required for each sun exposure. Your pharmacist can provide information on the measures to take for adequate sun protection.

Avoiding excessive sun exposure can also protect you from the unpleasantness of heatstroke, a potentially serious condition.

Appropriate care

In the case of a sunburn, apply the following measures:

  • Do not remain in the sun. Look for shady areas or, even better, go inside away from the sun’s rays.
  • Apply cool compresses to the affected areas.
  • Use a soothing aloe-based “aftersun” moisturizer known for its calming effect on sunburned skin. Certain medicated products are also available at the pharmacy. Talk to your pharmacist to choose the best-suited product for your needs.
  • Drink plenty of water. Proper hydration will help your skin to heal and make you feel better.
  • If you have blisters on your skin, do not burst them. If your skin peels, do not pull on the layers of skin.  Your skin is in a healing process, so try not to jeopardize it.
  • If your skin is damaged (presence of blisters etc.), use a saline-based solution or clean water to cleanse it with a very mild cleanser. Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment to promote healing. Some products contain a local analgesic to soothe pain and itching. Cover the damaged skin with a dressing.
  • Consider taking an analgesic (such as acetaminophen) to relieve pain or general discomfort.
  • You should see a doctor if your skin is significantly burned or if you have a fever, experience strong pain, note a diminished general state or present signs of dehydration.

Prevention is always the best strategy to avoid a sunburn! If you experience it, try to learn from your mistakes, and for future reference, talk to your pharmacist who will be able to give you several valuable tips regarding sun protection.

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Sunburn: how to care for your skin

We have all forgotten to protect our skin from excessive sun exposure at some time or other and paid a heavy price for it. A sunburn is sometimes a harsh reminder of our carelessness that can last a few hours, and oftentimes, a few days.
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