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It boils down to what's in the term sunburn: “sun” and “burn.” Simply put, the sun burns your skin. And the result can be pain, redness, blisters and peeling skin.
"Prevention is the key," says Dr. Cindy Kermott, a Mayo Clinic preventive medicine physician. "But if you've already been sunburned, taking a cool shower or bath can be a helpful start."
Dr. Kermott says the cool water from a shower, bath or cold compress works to tame the inflammation that occurs around a sunburn. Taking an anti-inflammatory medicine can help too. Drinking plenty of water will help replenish what your body is losing in battling the sunburn.
Dr. Kermott says to avoid applying topical products to the burned area, as they can irritate the skin and, in some cases, cause an allergic reaction. And don't pop blisters that may form.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Kermott are in the downloads.
"That fluid that’s underneath the blisters is completely sterile," says Dr. Kermott. "It can only become infected if it has exposure to the outside world — if it's popped."
Dr. Kermott says if blisters break on their own, apply an antibacterial cream to protect the newly exposed layer of skin.
See a doctor if the sunburn:
Finally, Dr. Kermott says to wear loose-fitting cotton clothing over the burn to limit any further exposure to the sun until the skin is healed.
To avoid sunburn:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Once sunburn occurs, you can't do much to limit damage to your skin. But the following tips may reduce your pain and discomfort:
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