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The Scars of Summer


What you may not know is that sun exposure can lead to first-degree and second-degree burns and scarring.

Classic sunburn with redness, slight swelling and mild pain is considered first-degree and can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and a moisturizer, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. This prevents the delicate new skin underneath from drying, cracking and peeling away with the burned skin layers on top of it.

Blistering burns, however, are considered second-degree, and require the following treatment to guard against scarring and infection:

     * Do not burst the blister. Treat with sterile white petrolatum or petroleum jelly and a light gauze wrap until it bursts on its own.
    * Once burst, remove the collapsed skin with gentle washing and sterile tweezers and treat the raw skin with petrolatum gauze.
    * Change the dressing once or twice a day and wash gently with an antibacterial soap. This prevents infection and stops an unwanted thick membrane from forming on the skin.

If any signs of infection are found, a physician should be consulted immediately. Also consult a professional if more than 1 percent of the skin's surface is involved or if the affected person is under 12.

To prevent this kind of dangerous burning, the American Cancer Society recommends an application of 30 SPF sun block during sun exposure.

"If you're going to be in intense sun, take precautions with sunscreen and clothing," says Martin A. Weinstock, director of the dermatoepidemiology unit at Brown University. "This is not rocket science. It's more like common sense."