Pharmacist Graham Hibbins, from Strachan’s Chemist, looks at sunburn and its treatments

Pharmacist Graham Hibbins, from Strachan’s Chemist in Uppermill, looks at sunburn and its treatments

Pharmacist: Graham Hibbins

AT THIS time of the year, we are more exposed to the dangers of the sun. Some people travel abroad for summer holidays, while others go mad as that occasional heat-wave hits our country.

Unfortunately, it can take up to a week for our body to produce the sun protecting chemical, melanin, and all of us can be at risk to the dangers of UV light.

Certain people have to particularly careful:

• People with pale or white skin and those that have freckles, red hair or moles;

• Anyone who tends to burn easily;

• Certain medical conditions and some medicines can cause problems with sunlight, so check with your pharmacist if you have concerns.

Although sunlight has the beneficial effect of producing Vitamin D, UV rays are responsible for causing premature ageing and wrinkling of the skin, and can cause damage to eyes, produce rough and scaly pre-cancerous spots and of course, skin cancer.

Prevention is better than cure, so protect the skin by covering up with suitable clothing, finding shade and applying sunscreen.

I would recommend sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection, at least 4-star protection and a minimum SPF of 15 but preferably SPF 30. Don’t be afraid of applying too much and keep reapplying.

Be extra careful with children as their skin is tender and more likely to burn. Babies under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Some people can be sensitive to certain lotions – again, your pharmacist can advise.

If you get sunburn, the skin becomes red, warm, sore and tender. It may start to flake or peel after a few days but usually heals in a week, if it is not re-exposed or there are no complications.

Treat like any other burn. Cool the skin, try having a cold bath or shower, or hold a cold flannel against the burn. I find aloe vera gel, chilled in the fridge, helps.

Pain killers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and avoid alcohol.

It may be wise to see your GP if the burn is over a large area, there is blistering or swelling of the skin, shivering, fever, dizziness, headache or vomiting.

Next month, I am going to follow this on with problems that can develop after air travel.


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