When it comes to sunburn we know that prevention is better than a cure and that we should avoid becoming sunburnt in the first place, but accidents happen, and sometimes we do end up sporting the lobster look. It can be tricky to identify whether you or someone with you is becoming burnt, especially in bright conditions when the person could be hot and possibly a bit flushed anyway. One way to tell if things are heading the wrong way is by pressing your finger on the skin. Normally it should take 3 to 4 seconds for the colour to return when you remove your finger, but sunburnt skin will tend to return to red immediately. So what should we do if we or someone we know does get sunburnt?
A First Aiders 4 Tips for Sunburn
Sun burn is the same as any other burn caused by heat and the First Aid advice is simple.
1. Remove the casualty from the heat source.
Which means get them out of the sun! If this isn’t possible, at least apply sun block and cover them up in loose fitting clothes. Be aware that UV rays can still penetrate many fabrics so this may not be enough.
2. Cool the burn.
As First Aiders we tend to avoid lotions and potions, so like any heat burn, cool running water is the best way to cool the skin. In the case of sunburn, which is often over a larger area, a cool shower or bath can be very effective. Remember that swimming in the sea won’t really help unless you can do that in the shade! If a cold shower or bath is unbearable, then tepid water is fine as long as you are still cooling the burn, rather than warming it up. Stay under the water until the heat has gone from the burn, this may take a long time, but patience is worth it.
Check out our blog (click here) on dehydration for the best ways to do this and moisturise the skin to rehydrate it.
4. Consider medical attention.
Burns that are larger than 5% of the casualty’s surface area should be checked out in hospital. The casualty’s palm of their hand is considered to be equal to 1% of their body surface area. A burn across their shoulders is probably around 5% or more.
More Serious Sunburn
Any sunburn that is blistered, or split, should also go to hospital as it is a deeper, more serious burn that carries the additional risk of infection. Do not burst any blisters, and try and keep the area cool and moist with wet towels or similar on the way.
Serious burns can lead to shock symptoms and become a medical emergency, so if in doubt, seeking medical attention is always safest.
Enjoy the summer, but as we mentioned at the outset, prevention is better that a cure, so make sure you use a good quality high factor sunscreen, cover up skin when its very hot and wear a hat.