How to treat a sunburn: Signs to watch for this summer

Millions of Americans are headed to the beach or an outdoor BBQ with friends and family to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, meaning hours of potential sun exposure which could lead to sunburn. While sunburn is usually not immediately apparent – symptoms typically set in about four hours after exposure – there are steps you can take to prevent it, or ways to find relief from the itchy, sometimes painful aftermath.

First, it’s important to know how and why sunburn occurs. According to Dr. Gregory Papadeas, board-certified dermatologist and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sunburn is an acute inflammatory response of normal skin primarily after exposure to ultra-light radiation, i.e. sunlight, but can also be caused by artificial sources like a tanning bed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that sunburn may actually worsen 24-36 hours following exposure. It usually resolves in about 3-5 days, the agency said, but symptoms during that time may include red, warm and tender skin, swollen skin, blistering, headache, fever, nausea and even fatigue. Skin peeling may not even begin until 3-8 days after exposure.

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