Wise Words … 06-02-11

What is sunburn?
by Dr. Rebecca Wise

Sunburn is a visible reaction of the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the invisible rays that are part of sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can also cause invisible damage to the skin. Excessive and/or multiple sunburns cause premature aging of the skin and lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US, and exposure to the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer.

What are the symptoms of sunburn?

The following are the most common symptoms of sunburn. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms may include:
• redness
• swelling of the skin
• pain
• blisters
• fever
• chills
• weakness
• dry, itching, and peeling skin days after the burn

Severe sunburns may cause a person to go into shock, which is characterized by fainting, low blood pressure, and severe weakness. Immediate medical attention is necessary if this occurs. The symptoms of sunburn may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for sunburns:

Sunburns usually heal themselves in a couple of weeks. However, depending on the severity and location of the sunburn, the following may be recommended. Always consult your physician for more information.

• To alleviate pain and heat (skin is warm to the touch) caused by the sunburn, take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin.
• Take a pain reliever such as aspirin (children and teenagers should never be given aspirin because of the danger of Reye syndrome), acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
• To rehydrate (add moisture to) the skin and help reduce swelling, apply topical moisturizing cream, aloe, or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream.
• Stay in the shade until the sunburn is healed. Additional sun exposure will only increase the severity and pain of the sunburn.

If the sunburn is severe and blisters occur, consult your physician right away. And as always, you can stop in to see me to ask more specific questions.


Dr Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a weekly general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an adjunct clinical professor at LECOM School of Pharmacy in Erie and a teacher at Great Lakes Institute of Technology. She is the owner/manager at Lakeside Health Mart Pharmacy in Edinboro and can be reached there by phone (814) 734-8500 or email pharmacist@EdinboroRx.com.

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