Although sun poisoning is rarely fatal, sunburn hurts, can be disabling, and increases your risk of skin cancer. Sunburn is a burn on your skin caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation that results in inflammation of the skin, also causing premature aging of the skin and wrinkles. Even with limited exposure to the sun, any recent exposure and prior sunburn increase your risk, although normal limited exposure to UV radiation produces beneficial vitamin D in the skin.
First Aid for Sunburn
Prevent sunburn before it starts by getting out of the sun, covering exposed skin, staying out of tanning beds, and using sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF indicates the time it takes to produce a skin reaction on protected and unprotected skin.
For example, SPF 30, in theory, allows you to be exposed 30 times longer than without sunscreen. But this is usually not true in practice, as there is a limit to amount of sun exposure without sun damage even if applying sunscreen regularly, and people seldom apply it adequately and properly.
Sunscreen needs to be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure in order to be effective. Also, regardless of what the label says, sunscreens are not waterproof and need to be reapplied in generous amounts after swimming or sweating and any sun exposure.
Take the following steps to treat sunburn:
Use OTC pain relievers for any discomfort.
For mild sunburn, use a cool compress with equal parts milk and water, or a cold compress with Burows Solution, which you can buy at a drugstore and use as directed.
Moisturize with aloe-based lotions, or use juices from an aloe plant.
Take cool (not ice-cold) baths, but avoid bath salts, oils, and perfumes to prevent sensitivity reactions.
Don't scrub or shave the skin or use lotions with topical anesthetic medications, because you can become sensitized and allergic to the medicine.
Stay out of the sun while you are healing, and drink plenty of fluids.
Certain drugs and herbal supplements, such as sulfa drugs, antibiotics, tranquilizers, birth-control pills, arthritis painkillers, oral diabetes medications, St. John's wort, drugs for treating allergies, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart-rhythm problems, and some acne and other skin-condition treatments can increase the risk of sunburn.
See your doctor for any severe blistering or if you are dehydrated or suffering from heat stress.