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11.02 Sunburn

Presentaion: Patients generally seek help only if their sunburn is severe. There will be a history of extended exposure to sunlight or to an artificial source of ultraviolet radiation, such as a sunlamp. The burns will be accompanied by intense pain and the patient will not be able to tolerate anything touching the skin. There may be systemic complaints that include nausea, chills, and fever. The affected areas are erythematous and are accompanied by mild edema. The more severe the burn, the earlier it will appear and the more likely it will progress to edema and blistering.

What to do:

What not to do:


With sunburn, the onset of symptoms is usually delayed for 2-4 hours. Maximum discomfort usually occurs after 14-20 hours, and symptoms last between 24 and 72 hours. Patients should be instructed on the future use of sunscreens containing para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) (e.g., Pabanol and PreSun). Prophylactic use of aspirin prior to sun exposure has also been recommended.

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from Buttaravoli & Stair: COMMON SIMPLE EMERGENCIES
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Craig Feied, MD
Mark Smith, MD
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Michael Gillam, MD