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How can I enjoy summer and still not suffer from sunburn?
How do I choose sunscreen?You want a skin protection (SPF) factor with a minimum of 30 or higher. The higher the number, the better your protection. If the bottle says the sunscreen is "broad-spectrum," that means it also protects you from more damaging ultraviolet rays. Apply sunscreen liberally at least 30 minutes before exposure and don?t forget areas such as the scalp, ears, nose, and feet. Remember to re-apply it every two to three hours and more often if you go in the water or sweat heavily. Wearing a T-shirt in the water will not guarantee you won?t burn; you still need sunscreen under it. If you know you will be in the sun for an extended period, use a sun block. Also, use a lip balm with a SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply it every two to three hours.
What should I do if I still get sunburned?Place cool cloths on sunburned areas and take frequent cool showers or baths. Apply lotions that have aloe vera or chamomile as ingredients. Over the counter, one-percent hydrocortisone creams can help with pain and swelling. (Check with your pediatrician before using these creams on young children.) Sunburn is often accompanied by headaches and a mild fever. Drinking fluids and using nonprescription medications, such as Tylenol, can help relieve fever or pain. If you begin to peel, lotion can help relieve the itching.
What if the burn begins to blister?Don?t scratch, break or cover blisters. Let them heal on their own. Avoid wearing clothes or shoes that will irritate the blisters and if you can?t do that, use only a loose bandage over the blister. Be sure to wash your hands before touching blisters as they can become easily infected. If a blister breaks, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
Do I need to see a doctor?
If your pain, swelling, redness or fever continues to become more severe or more frequent or you have increasing nausea and vomiting, go to a walk-in clinic or make an appointment with your doctor. Also, if a blister has red streaks going out from it or pus draining from it, you may benefit from antibiotic treatment, which a doctor can prescribe. Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpit or groin are also good reasons to see a doctor.
Dr. Brad Bossort is board certified in family medicine by the American Board of Family Practice and the Canada College of Family Practice Canada. He is a family medicine physician at Sanford Downtown Walk-in Clinic.