Sun Smarts this Summer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Protecting yourself from painful sunburn may not just save your skin, it may save your life.

Summer is the time of year to lay by the pool, spend time outdoors and unfortunately, deal with sunburn. Though sunburn is irritating, it is generally harmless and will go away after a few days without any kind of treatment. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek medical treatment for sunburn if:

  • The sunburn is severe — with blisters — and covers a large portion of your body
  • The sunburn is accompanied by a high fever or severe pain
  • You’ve developed a skin infection from scratching your sunburned skin
  • You have a severe sunburn that doesn’t begin to improve within a few days

What if you’re not sure whether you have severe sunburn? It’s probably still a good idea to consult a physician. However, in most cases, sunburn can be treated at home with:

  • Cool compresses
  • Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB)
  • Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Aloe vera gel or lotion
  • Hydration — drinking plenty of fluids

Despite our improved understanding of the dangers of sunburn, statistically speaking, sunburn is more of a problem now than it was 70 years ago.


No matter how many times we’re told that we need to use sunscreen every day, we don’t do it. Repeat sun exposure and sunburn will eventually destroy the DNA of our skin cells and cause melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer and the second most common cancer diagnosed in women aged 20-29.5 years.

Moreover, children are at an especially high risk for sun-related skin issues.  According to American Cancer Society, “early sun exposure and blistering sunburns under the age of 20 have been shown to increase the incidence of skin cancer. The skin cancers that affect adults are partially a result of the sun damage they received in childhood and adolescence, not to mention the wrinkling and aging! Regular sun protection throughout childhood can reduce the risk of skin cancer by 78 percent.”

So how do we reduce the risk of sunburn?

The number one way to prevent sunburn (or worse) is to reduce sun exposure. This seems like a no brainer but getting out of the sun until a burn fades can help prevent further damage to your skin. There’s no shame in bringing an umbrella to the beach!

If you have to be in the sun, be sure to lather up with sunscreen. Which sunscreens are best for your body? See the chart below:

best sunscreen

Remember that every part of unexposed skin is susceptible to burning. The most common places missed are your eyelids and in between your fingers, which are two of the most painful areas if burned.

This summer, don’t let the sun get the best of you. Be smart when it comes to spending time in the sun, especially for your children’s sake. If your burn is persistent and carries any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek medical help. For more information about treating sunburn this summer, contact your nearest Michigan Urgent Care clinic.