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Image / Editorial

Feeling hot, hot, hot: Here’s how to properly treat your sunburn

by Grace McGettigan
28th Jun 2019

With the country in the midst of a heatwave, there’s no doubt some people will fall victim to sunburn. Here’s how to properly treat it according to the HSE

We hope you’ve been enjoying the glorious Irish weather this week; beach trips, 99s and all. But we hope even more that you’ve been staying safe. Met Éireann has said temperatures are likely to reach 27 Celsius, with moderate to high UV levels. With that in mind, it’s vital we protect our sun-sensitive skin the best we can.

Sunburn is a form of skin damage caused by exposure to UV rays (and it doesn’t have to be sunny for it to happen; people can get sunburn even when there’s cloud-cover).

Related: How to protect your pets from heatstroke this summer

While those of us with fair skin and red hair are more susceptible to sunburn; anyone exposed to UV rays is at risk. Grab a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protecting against UVA and UVB rays), and apply it liberally and frequently.

According to the Irish Cancer Society, cases of melanoma in Ireland have reached a record high. So much so, the National Cancer Registry shows diagnoses of the illness have more than trebled in the last 20 years. Using a high-factor SPF every day (such as SPF 50); covering up with linen or cotton clothing, and staying in the shade are the best ways to protect your skin from burning this summer.

How to treat sunburn

However, should you fall victim to the sun’s harmful rays, the Health Service Executive has offered some advice. First, cover any burnt skin with loose clothing to prevent further damage. Once back inside, assess yourself.

If the sunburn is mild, cool your skin by sponging it with lukewarm water or by having a cool shower. Follow up with an aftersun cream or aloe vera moisturiser (available from pharmacies) to soothe your skin and relieve any itchiness. Mild sunburn usually goes away within four to seven days of exposure.

Related: The best new sunscreens for your face,
no matter your skin type

If your sunburn is severe you should visit your local pharmacist or GP for professional advice. Symptoms of severe sunburn include blistering; swelling of the skin; chills; a high temperature, and a feeling of general discomfort. Some people may also experience headaches, dizziness and nausea.

On occasion, severe sunburn requires special burn cream and burn dressings (to be applied by a nurse). If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, make sure to seek out professional medical advice as soon as possible.

Lastly, ensure you drink plenty of water. Not only will this replace fluids lost through sweating, but also reduce feelings of dizziness. The HSE advises you to avoid alcohol, as this dehydrates the skin even further.

If in doubt, contact your nearest pharmacist or healthcare practitioner for professional help.

Photo: Wayne Dery, Unsplash

Read more: Do you know how to check your moles properly?

Read more: The best new sunscreens for your face, no matter your skin type

Read more: Heatwave: How to protect your pets from heatstroke this summer

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