Surviving Sunburn

25 August 2011 By Jason A. Shapiro

We’ve all experienced some form of sunburn in our lives and know just how uncomfortable and painful it can be. According to the U.S. government agency, The National Institute of Health (NIH), “A [first degree] sunburn is reddening of the skin that occurs after you are exposed to the sun or other ultraviolet light. A sunburn results when the amount of exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light source exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment, Melanin, to protect the skin.”

Severe sunburns go beyond the basic reddening of the skin and sensitivity to touch. We define these types of sunburns as second-degree (a partial thickness burn with pain, redness, swelling and blistering) or third-degree burn (full thickness burn with charred skin that may be numb to sensation all together). In fact, acute severe sunburns actually may lead to death if not immediately treated.

Regardless of your knowledge or personal experience with sunburns at sea, you should never assume your guests are as wise to the real dangers of the sun. These seven tips will help you help your guests prevent and treats sunburns.

1.    Sunburns are better prevented than treated. At least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, make sure your guests have generously applied sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) level of 30 or higher, focusing on the face, lips, nose, ears and shoulders with reapplication every two hours while exposed to the sun. Make sure the guests cover sun-exposed skin with large rimmed hats, long sleeve shirts and wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Have guests avoid direct sun exposure during peak hours (1000hr to 1600hr).
2.    Sunburn detection and early intervention are the name of the game. Depending on skin type, the first signs of a sunburn may not appear for a few hours, therefore be on the lookout for guests complaining of redness and sensitivity of their skin, warmth to touch, blistering, and in extreme cases, guests feeling feverish with chills, dizziness, nauseous or rashes, which is a sign of sun poisoning.
3.    Keep sunburn-affected skin cool with cold compresses and extremely moist with moisturizer creams that do not contain alcohol as this dries out the skin. There is little scientific data to show that anesthetics like Benzocaine the pain.
4.    Leave all blisters intact as premature breaking will increase the risk for infections to occur.
5.    Keeping hydrated is very important to prevent dehydration. Keep in mind, your sun exposed guests are naturally becoming dehydrated as they continue to be directly exposed to the sun.
6.    Over-the-counter pain relief medication is a must for adults so consider anti-inflammatory medication like Advil, Motrin, or Alleve. Do not use these medications in children or in teens as they may cause a rare and potentially fatal disease called Reye’s Syndrome.
7.    Call a medical doctor immediately if sunburned guest experiences signs and symptoms of shock, heat stroke, dehydration or severe intractable pain. Be on the lookout for dizziness, rapid heart rate or breathing rate, extreme thirst accompanied by dark urine or no urine output at all, nausea, fever, chills, rashes, or painful blistering over a large area of skin.

Dr. Jason Shapiro is offering the first 10 readers who email him a complimentary Anti-Aging SkinMedica™ Facial ($150 value) with our facial expert, Medical Aesthetician Marlene Bracero, as well as offer a complimentary ‘sunless’ spray tan ($45 value) with VIVID SUNLESS TANNING, Inc., a concierge tanning company which uses organic, parabin-free dye ingredients to create natural looking tanned skin lasting up to two weeks.

Jason A. Shapiro, MD is the medical director of Tribeca Medaesthetics, a medical practice which provides state-of-the-art, cosmetic surgical and non-surgical care from Board Certified doctors with a focus on patient education and patient satisfaction.  To learn more about Dr. Shapiro’s community involvement with his medical practice, please visit Location:  1425 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida across the street from Broward General Medical Center. Telephone: 954-760-4370; Email:; Website:

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