Once an individual ends up with sunburn to a certain degree, peeling is unavoidable. It is important to note that swelling is how the body repairs the exterior skin layer that was damaged by the sun. In most cases, there is temporary discoloration in the skin during the peeling process that can take up to several days to fully subside.
Close look on sunburn
Sunburn is caused by exposure to ultraviolet or UV rays whether using a tanning bed or sun lamp or engaging in outdoor activities. Being exposed to the UV rays can cause the skin to produce increased amounts of melanin.
The production of melanin results to a tan which is the defense mechanism of the body in order to keep the UV rays from causing more damage. The skin can only protect itself to a certain extent. Some individuals are genetically unable to produce enough melanin, thus their skin readily burns even after short periods of exposure to the UV rays. The longer the individual stays out under the sun, the higher the risk for getting sunburn that produces inflammation, redness, pain and even blisters.
Once sunburn develops, the damage to the skin is unavoidable. Before the skin starts to peel, there are home remedies that can help minimize the inflammation and discomfort. You can utilize cold, wet compresses or encourage the individual to take a cool shower.
There are also over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen that can be taken daily until the pain and inflammation subsides. It is also recommended to drink plenty of fluids to properly hydrate the body.
Topical products such as aloe vera lotion, moisturizers or .5 to 1% hydrocortisone cream can be used. Take note that hydrocortisone creams can help the skin heal at a faster rate after sustaining sunburn.
Peeling of the sunburn
Proper care is required once the skin starts to peel. It is recommended to use a moisturizing cream and keep the fingers away from the peeling area. In case the sunburn developed watery blisters, they should not be popped.
If the blisters pop open on their own, you have to apply a non-prescription antibacterial cream. Make sure that you will cover the affected area using gauze to prevent infection. Remember that caring for sunburn is similar to managing any burn injury. Avoid coating the burn site with thick, oily salves.
When to consult a doctor
Even though most cases of sunburn can be managed effectively using self-care measures, there are times when medical care is required. A doctor should be consulted for the following:
- If the sunburn blisters cover a large area of the body
- There is high fever, chills, nausea, confusion and severe pain
- The sunburn does not respond to home treatment after a few days.
The indications of infection due to severe sunburn include open blisters that drain out pus, red-colored streaks surrounding the blisters that extend externally in a lined manner and increased swelling and pain.
How to prevent sunburn
Severe cases of sunburn not only cause unsightly peeling. It is important to note that exposure to the sun not only causes wrinkling and age spots but also increases the risk for skin cancer.
It is vital to use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that must be applied on the face, ears, nose and shoulders. The lip balm used should also contain sunscreen as well. It is not advisable to go out between 10 AM – 4 PM when the UV rays are strongest. When staying outdoors, it is recommended to use a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Always protect the skin using clothing that covers the legs and arms.