If you feel your sunburn is severe enough, call your doctor. You most likely will be asked how severe your condition is and if you have any other significant health problems. The doctor can then make the decision to treat you at home or in the office or refer you to an emergency department.
Conditions that should motivate you to go to a hospital's emergency department include the following:
Home care starts before a sunburn. If you are prepared before going out in the sun, you probably won't need these tips and techniques.
Your doctor either will schedule a follow-up visit at the time of your initial evaluation and treatment or will give you instructions to return if certain problems occur. Sunburn can cause lost workdays, which in certain jobs (especially the military) can lead to disciplinary action. Furthermore, sunburn can cause premature aging and skin cancers .
The best prevention is to avoid the sun. This is often not practical or desired many times.
Other, more practical strategies include wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants.
If this is not possible, a variety of sun-blocking agents are available for use. Some are just for the lips and face. Others are for more general-purpose use. Pay attention to the sun protection factor (SPF) and whether or not PABA is in the product. PABA should be avoided in children younger than 6 months because it can cause skin irritation.
The higher the SPF number, the more protection the sun-blocking agent may have. SPF is actually a ratio of the time it takes to produce a skin reaction on protected and unprotected skin. Thus, a 30 SPF sunscreen would in theory allow you to be exposed 30 times longer than with no sunscreen. However, this is usually not true in practice.