Preventing and Treating Sunburn


Summer is in full swing, and we are seeing lots of patients with that unfortunate red, painful, skin! Protect yourself and get the facts about sunburns.

A sunburn is an acute inflammatory response following exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight or artificial sources such as tanning beds. Symptoms include pink or red skin that is warm to the touch, pain, tenderness, itching, swelling, small fluid-filled blisters, and in severe cases headache, fever, nausea, and fatigue. Redness usually appears 3-4 hours after exposure with peak levels at 24 hours.

Aside from the immediate pain and discomfort of a sunburn, there are also many long term effects. This includes premature aging, development of precancerous lesions, or malignant tumors such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

Prevention is the most effective treatment!

  • Avoid sun exposure between 10-4pm
  • Use sunscreen containing an SPF of at least 30
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming, sweating, or toweling off
  • Wear protective clothing when spending time outdoors. Don’t forget your sunglasses too!
  • Use extra caution near water, sand, or snow as they can reflect the sun’s harmful rays

If a sunburn does occur, treatment is primarily symptomatic. NSAIDs can be used for pain and inflammation, but will not shorten the duration. Cold-water compresses and moisturizers can also provide temporary relief. Your dermatologist may prescribe topical or oral steroids or antibiotics for more serious cases. Steroids are most helpful within 4-6 hours of the sun exposure!

Be sure to visit your dermatologist if:

  • Your sunburn is blistering and covers a large portion of your body
  • You experience high fever, extreme pain, headache, fatigue, nausea or chills
  • You notice signs of infection such has increasing pain and tenderness, swelling, yellow drainage or pus from an open blister

Living in Florida the sun is part of our lives each and every day. Be sun smart and protect your skin! If you are concerned about your sunburn or the after effects, give our office a call 727-530-0920.