. Crutchfield Dermatology : Continuing Medical Education Section
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Diagnosis: Sunburn
sunburn diagnosis
The hint here is that under her bra strap, the red patch is missing (sun protected by a swimsuit strap) . The flagellate shape is due to the fact that she put on sunscreen, by herself, and her arms could not reach behind her far enough to apply the sunscreen on her mid-back. The uninvolved areas represent the areas of sunscreen coverage/protection. This is visual proof that sunscreens really make a difference.

80% of one's lifetime sun exposure is obtained before the age of 21. This means that, often, by the time one is mature enough to understand the value of sun protection, it is almost too late. Resultantly, it is very important for parents and grandparents to teach children the importance of proper sun protection.

Dr. Crutchfield recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that also contains ultraviolet-A (UVA) protection. Sunscreens should be put on 30 minutes before going out in the sun (it takes sunscreens about 20 minutes to 'set-up' in the skin) and the sunscreen should be reapplied every hour to maintain good protection. Sunscreens should be applied more frequently if one is swimming or perspiring. Sunscreens can be applied beginning at age 6 months. Dr. Crutchfield also recommends sun protective clothing as a first line defense against the sun. "Once you put the clothing or hat on, you don't have to re-apply it and it is giving you constant protection".

To treat sunburns Dr. Crutchfield recommends topical steroid gels (kept in the refrigerator) to be applied three times daily for 3-5 days. Stronger steroid preparations may require a prescription. In adults he also recommends aspirin, 2 tablets, every 8 hours for the first 3-5 days. If the sunburn affects a pediatric patients use ibuprofen rather than aspirin to avoid Reye's syndrome. Cool Aveeno oatmeal baths and topical aloe gel (kept also in he refrigerator) are additional helpful supportive measures. Of course the best 'treatment' for a sunburn is to prevent them in the first place.

Click here for more information on:
Sun Protection and Sun Protective Clothing
CME Article on Sunburn

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD
Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor of Dermatology
At the
University of Minnesota Medical School
Medical Director, Crutchfield Dermatology

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