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The time it takes to burn can vary from one individual to another. A fair-skinned person with light hair and eyes typically burns the quickest, while a dark-skinned person can withstand longer exposure. In addition, medications like birth control pills and certain antibiotics can make skin more sensitive to UV light. One of the dangerous aspects of sunburn is that by the time you turn red, damage has already occurred. Pain and redness may continue to increase hours later.

Three to eight days after the burn, the injured skin typically peels. A mild sunburn with a deep pink color, heat, and some burning can be treated with cool compresses, by soaking in a cool bath, or by applying aloe vera gel. Avoid bath oils and harsh soaps. For moderate burns in which skin is red, itchy, and stinging, over-the-counter steroid creams can be applied and acetaminophen (ah-see-toe-MIN-uh-fin) taken for pain relief. Never use petroleum jelly, butter, or ointment on a sunburn.

Also, avoid creams or sprays with benzocaine (BEHN-zoh-kane), since this chemical can trigger an allergic reaction. If a sunburn is severe or is accompanied by fever, chills, nausea, dizziness, rapid pulse, or clammy skin, see a doctor immediately.