You looked forward to your tropical beach vacation for months. When you finally arrived, you headed straight to the beach to relax in the sun. While you enjoyed every minute of it and thought you were following all the right sun protection tips, the facts face you in your hotel room mirror later that day: You have a sunburn.
Now what? You need sunburn treatment that can keep your sunburn from ruining the rest of your beach vacation.
How Sunburn Happened
You already know that the best way to keep your skin youthful and healthy is to stay out of the sun during its peak hours and use sunscreen and protective clothing when you are in the sun. So how did this happen? You may not have known how powerful the sun's rays are:
- People at a tropical beach vacation are at an increased risk of getting a sunburn because these destinations are nearer to the equator, where the sun's rays are the strongest.
- Reflection from the sand and water increases the amount of sun you get. (You are even at risk of sunburn when vacationing in snowy destinations, since the sun's reflection off the snow makes it stronger in these locales, too.)
- Sunburn can develop after just 15 minutes, but you may not realize whatâ€™s happening because sunburn symptoms usually don't appear until three to five hours after sun exposure.
Sunburn Treatment Strategies
Once you have a sunburn, your symptoms can actually get worse over the next 24 to 36 hours, and the painful, uncomfortable results of a sunburn can stick around for five days or more. There is no way to make a sunburn go away immediately â€” you will have to wait until your skin heals. However, there are several sunburn treatments to relieve your pain and help you feel more comfortable:
- Use a pain reliever. As soon as you realize that you have a sunburn, head indoors immediately and use a topical or oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). When these medications are used early enough, they may help reduce some of the redness. Keep taking these medications as needed as your skin heals, since they can also reduce other sunburn-related symptoms, including pain, fever, and headache.
- Get hydrated. When you are in the sun for long periods of time, it is easy to become overheated and dehydrated. So, for the first two to three days after you get a sunburn, drink plenty of water and other caffeine- and alcohol-free fluids to help keep you hydrated.
- Stay in the shade. To help prevent further damage to your already sunburned skin, wear lightweight protective clothing and stay out of the sun â€” seek the shade of an umbrella or covered porch. If it is especially hot outside or you are very uncomfortable, you may feel better spending more time indoors, in air conditioning.
- Moisturize your skin. Slather on a moisturizing cream or aloe vera gel to soothe your parched skin and help relieve some of your sunburn symptoms.
- Cool down. If the pain and heat of your sunburn are making you uncomfortable, taking a cool bath or applying cool compresses to the affected areas may provide some relief.
When to Seek Emergency Care
Sometimes, a sunburn is so severe that it is considered a medical emergency. Travel health experts advise getting immediate medical care if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Extreme skin pain or blistering
- Facial swelling
- Stomach upset
- Dizziness or fainting
Knowing how to treat your sunburn will minimize discomfort, and reacting quickly will get your vacation back on track.
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