How to deal with a bad sunburn

May 22, 2009 9:56:18 PM PDT
We know we're supposed to lather on the sunscreen before going outside. But what happens if you don't? How do you treat a bad sunburn? The only sun that Emily Biggs wants to see is what's reflected off the grass in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. Though most people there are soaking up rays, Emily is in the shade after four hours of sun bathing a couple weeks ago.

"When I was leaving, I was like, it feels like I've burned myself," she said. "And when I got home I saw how bad it was...I looked liked a red lobster. It was bright red, and it actually scared me cause it was so red."

Emily's burn was the kind that increases the risk for skin cancers such as melanomas. Dermatologists suggest treating a bad burn with soothing lotions and oatmeal baths.

"Even cold milk compresses," said Dr. Jennifer Stein, of the NYU Medical Center. "If you take milk and paper towels...that can be very soothing as well."

Of course, avoiding burns is better. Emily knew what to do.

"I had sunscreen in my bag," she said. "I just didn't use it."

So use it, and don't skimp on it either.

You should use a full ounce, roughly one third of the tube, to cover your entire body.

That's what sunscreen makers use to test the sun protection factor, or SPF. Anything over an SPF of 15 SPF is enough, if you reapply it every two hours. Zinc and titanium oxide creams actually block sun completely without being greasy. Reapply them also every two hours. Emily will.

"I definitely learned my lesson," she said. "The first time I go into the sun this summer, I'll wear sunscreen. Actually, I'll wear sunscreen all the time."

That is a good idea, and it's even better with a hat and long sleeves during walks in the sun. Sun also causes wrinkles by damaging elastic tissue in the skin. So when should you see the doctor for a bad burn? If there's blistering or if you have fever or chills, it's time to set up an apointment.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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