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What is severe sunburn?

Caused by damage from the sun's rays, sunburn in adults can cause wrinkles, brown spots, and even skin cancer. Severe sunburn is a sunburn that's so bad it makes you feel sick. Along with the redness, swelling, and pain of a regular sunburn, you may also have blisters, a fever, chills, a bad headache, and an upset stomach. You may even throw up and feel dizzy. If this happens, you should call your healthcare provider right away.

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You may not know right away if you have a severe sunburn-it can take 12 to 24 hours after spending time in the sun to know how bad your sunburn is.


How can I treat my severe sunburn?

If your healthcare provider tells you that you have severe sunburn, the damage to your skin is already done. But you can take these steps to help ease the pain and prevent other problems.


* Drink plenty of water.


* Apply a cool, wet cloth to the sunburned area three or four times a day or take a cool bath.


* Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as directed if you have sunburn pain or a headache.


* If you have blisters on your skin, don't break them-they might get infected. If they break on their own, wash the area two to three times a day with soap and water and lightly cover it with gauze.


* Don't use any other first-aid creams or sprays on severely sunburned skin. You can apply a light moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out.


* Stay out of the sun.


* If you have eye pain or feel confused or dizzy, call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest hospital emergency department.



How can I avoid getting a sunburn?

The best way to avoid getting a sunburn is to protect yourself from the sun whenever you're outside, and not just during the summer or at the beach. The sun's rays can damage your skin all year round, even on cloudy and hazy days. If you're going outdoors, take these steps to stay safe. If you have children, take the same precautions for them.


* Never seek out the sun to get a tan. Like a sunburn, a suntan damages your skin.


* Don't use tanning machines because they can cause the same skin damage as the sun.


* Apply sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more 30 to 60 minutes before you go outside. Don't overlook often-forgotten places like the back of your neck and tips of your ears. Reapply the sunscreen every 3 to 4 hours and after swimming or sweating. Use a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 too.


* Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.


* Wear protective clothing such as loose shirts with long sleeves, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and shoes. Darker colors block the sun's rays better than light colors. Keep in mind that clothes don't protect your skin completely from the sun's rays, so wear sunscreen too.


* Wear wraparound sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays (check the tag on the sunglasses you buy to make sure).


* Head indoors right away if your skin starts to ache or tingle.


* Ask your healthcare provider if any medicines you're taking will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight (photosensitive). Examples include some types of antibiotics and acne medicines. If you take one of these drugs, you may need to avoid the sun altogether.