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How can sunburns be prevented/treated?

Q: My upper back is sunburnt and I have a lot of black marks. What is the best solution for this? There are also some white patches. Please suggest.

A:Your current problem can be taken care of by a smoothening lotion like Calamine. Here are some more tips that you will find useful. Sunburn results from too much sun or sun-equivalent exposure. Almost everyone has been sunburned or will become sunburned at some time. Anyone who visits a beach, goes fishing, works in the yard, or simply is out in the sun can get sunburn. Although seldom fatal (sun poisoning), sunburn can be disabling and cause quite a bit of discomfort. Sunburn is literally a burn on your skin. It is a burn from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The consequence of this burn is inflammation of the skin. Injury can start within 30 minutes of exposure.

  • UVA and UVB refer to different wavelengths in the light spectrum. UVB is more damaging to the skin especially for skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB are responsible for photoaging (premature aging of the skin and wrinkles) and sunburn. Tanning beds produce both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Travel to regions close to the equator, and places at high altitudes all offer the unwary visitor an opportunity to be injured by sunburn.
  • Certain light-skinned and fair-haired people are at greater risk of sunburn injury.
  • Prior recent sun exposure and prior skin injury are risks for sunburn, even in limited exposure to the sun. However, normal limited exposure to UV radiation produces beneficial vitamin D in the skin.
If you feel your sunburn is very severe enough, call your doctor. You most likely will be asked how severe your condition is and if you have any other significant health problems. The doctor can then make the decision to treat you at home or in the office. Conditions that should motivate you to go to a hospitals emergency department include the following:
  • Severe pain
  • Severe blistering
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • An acute problem with another medical condition
Home care starts before a sunburn. If you are prepared before going out in the sun, you probably wont need these tips and techniques. Immediate self-care is aimed at stopping the UV radiation: Get out of the sun, and cover exposed skin. Your doctor either will schedule a follow-up visit at the time of your initial evaluation and treatment or will give you instructions to return if certain problems occur. Sunburn can cause lost workdays, which in certain jobs (especially the military) can lead to disciplinary action. Furthermore, sunburn can cause premature aging and skin cancers. The best prevention is to avoid the sun. This is often not practical or desired many times. Other, more practical strategies include wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. If this is not possible, a variety of sun-blocking agents are available for use. Some are just for the lips and face. Others are for more general-purpose use. Pay attention to the sun protection factor (SPF) and whether or not PABA is in the product. PABA should be avoided in children younger than 6 months because it can cause skin irritation. The higher the SPF number, the more protection the sun-blocking agent may have. SPF is actually a ratio of the time it takes to produce a skin reaction on protected and unprotected skin. Thus, a 30 SPF sunscreen would in theory allow you to be exposed 30 times longer than with no sunscreen. However, this is usually not true in practice. People seldom apply enough sunscreen or rarely reapply it. Sunscreen should be applied in generous amounts in layers and reapplied after being exposed. Activities such as sweating and swimming degrade its effectiveness. Sunscreens are not waterproof. Certain drugs can sensitize the skin to radiation injury. If you take them, avoid the sun. Your doctor or pharmacist can further advise you about your medications and sun sensitivity. Most likely to cause sun sensitivity are antibiotics, antipsoriatics (prescribed for skin conditions), and acne medicines.

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