Really Bad Sunburn – How to Treat, Peeling and What to Do

Have really bad sunburn? Don’t fret? We have got you covered with handy tips and remedies to get your flawless skin back. We have also highlighted various symptoms that would necessitate prompt medical attention.

I Have a Really Bad Sunburn – A Cause for Concern?

I have a really bad sunburn.  Is it a health concern?” Maggie

Well, getting sunburn is a bad idea regardless of whether it is a mild or severe one.

Sunburn causes changes in the skin cell’s DNA which can set the path for a whole lot of skin problems including dark spots, early ageing, wrinkles and even melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

You should thus protect your skin against UV damage every time you have to go outdoors by slathering on a good wide spectrum sunscreen, SPF15 at the very least.

It is also advisable to stay out of the sun when it is at its peak, usually between 10 am and 4 pm.

Really Bad Sunburn or Very Bad Sunburn – Common Causes

Exposure to UV rays from the sun is the common culprit for sunburns even though other UV sources such as tanning beds can as well lead to sunburn.

Melanin (skin’s natural pigment) in the skin provides natural protection against the damaging effects of UV radiation from the sun, but when the extent and amount of UV radiation exceeds the ability of melanin to shield the skin against it, sunburn results.

Those really bad sunburns usually result if you get exposed to UV radiation for a long time without applying a sunscreen, more so when the sun is at its peak between 10 am and 4 pm.

There are also various places that are characterized by high amounts of UV exposure and these includes high altitude and low latitude (near the equator) area, areas in close proximity to oceans and other water bodies, and snow-capped and sandy areas.

What to Do For a Really Bad Sunburn or How to Treat Really a Bad Sunburn

So what can you do for that “sunburn that is really”, you may ask? Well, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, most cases of sunburns can be treated at home and this includes those with blisters.

Here is how to treat a really bad sunburn:

Leave any blisters alone: Blistering is a common symptom of second degree sunburn. Your best course of action is to leave them alone as they are there to protect your skin. Keeping cool with cool compresses and showers can help to soothe the blisters.

You might as well want to keep the blisters covered with a dry bandage to protect it from infection.

If the blisters however get broken, say when sleeping for example, simply wash them gently with lukewarm water and soap, apply an antibiotic cream e.g. Bacitracin, and cover them with a bandage. Change the bandage as frequent as is necessary to keep them dry and clean.

Take over-the-counter pain relieving medications: Taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil etc) or aspirin (Bayer) can help to soothe the pain and reduce inflammation (swelling).

These can also help to reduce skin redness particularly if the pills are taken as soon as first symptoms of sunburn are observed as Francesca Fusco, MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, NY says.

The WebMD website, advices against giving aspirin to children under the age of 16 years as this can cause Reye’s syndrome, a fatal but rare condition. As for pregnant women, only acetaminophen (Tylenol) is recommended but on the downside, acetaminophen only soothes pain but doesn’t relieve inflammation.

Aloe vera: Aloe vera is your best friend when it comes to burns, including sunburns.

Topical steroid creams: The inflammation and itching associated with sunburns may benefit from 1% hydrocortisone cream. Steroid creams should however not be used on children aged below 2 years without the consent of a doctor. It is also not advisable to use such creams in the vaginal or rectal areas in children aged below 12 years.

Relax: Sunburn may cause headache. In the event of a headache, take a rest in a cool, quiet area. It is also important to take plenty of water and non-caffeinated drinks – e.g. soups, energy drinks, juices etc – since dehydration is often to blame for sunburn-related headaches.

Bad Sunburn Peeling

Skin peeling is one of the common symptoms of sunburn. Typically occurring after a few days of exposure skin peeling is intended to shed off damaged skin cells and as such there isn’t much you can do to stop it, save for minimizing the extent of damage by taking the appropriate measures early on.

If the worst has already happened and you have bad sunburn peeling to show for it, avoid the temptation to peel the flaked skin off and instead keep the skin moisturized with a lotion or an aftersun cream.

Applying an Aloe vera juice or gel can also help to soothe the skin and promote faster healing.

How to Sleep with a Bad Sunburn

You may perhaps be wondering what the best way to sleep when suffering from a sunburn that is really bad. Well, the most appropriate sleeping position is one that limits the pressure on the affected area of skin. This is especially true if your skin is blistered.

For example, if your back is blistered, you will want to avoid sleeping on your back lest you risk popping the blisters accidentally and probably causing an infection.

How to Heal a Bad Sunburn with Home Remedies

For that bad sunburn, there are numerous home remedies available to soothe symptoms such as pain, itching, and swelling and promote healing of the skin including:

Cool the skin: Taking the heat out of the sunburned areas of skin is a great way to soothe the symptoms while promoting speedy healing. For small areas of skin, applying cool compresses can help.

This entails dipping a small washcloth in cool water, wringing out the excess water, and then placing it on the skin to cool it. Re-soak the washcloth when it gets warm and repeat several times daily.

For larger areas of skin, a cool bath or shower can help. It is advisable to skip the soap altogether to avoid further irritation of the skin or use one of those gentle varieties such as Dove, Aveeno Bar etc. for blistered skin, a bath is better suited than a shower as the pressure from the shower can break the blisters.

Moisturize the skin: Moisturizing the skin is another great bet for that bad sunburn. This helps to reduce pain and itching and minimize peeling. Any water based lotion will do the trick but Dr. Fusco recommends Eucerin or Lubriderm.

Avoid petroleum products such as Vaseline as this can trap in heat by clogging the skin pores. Moisturizers with anti-aging chemical such as retinol and hydroxyl acids, and alcohol also do your skin no favor according to Dr. Fusco.

You can also use one of the various aftersun creams available on the market. Check with your local drugstore (pharmacy).

Other remedies that you may want to consider for that bad sunburn are:

  • Apply cool skim milk on the skin
  • Rinse the skin with cool freshly made green tea or chamomile tea. The tannic acid in tea does wonders in as far as relieving sunburn symptoms is concerned
  • Place mashed or sliced potatoes on the sunburned skin to soothe pain
  • Chill a couple cucumbers for thirty minutes, blend them, and apply the paste on the skin. After drying, wash it off with water.
  • Add a cup of baking soda or oatmeal powder e.g. Aveeno to bathing water and then soak in it for 20 minutes to relieve itching

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