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To self-treat the pain, take ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter painkillers known as NSAIDs within a few hours of reddening skin, Ceilley advises. Those pills fight various kinds of inflammation. While they may not directly block the pain-causing protein the British researchers discovered, they do act on related pain chemicals, he notes.
But don't use those pills before going in the sun; they're among a host of medicines that can make your skin more sun-sensitive.
Cool compresses can soothe, and some patients find relief from aloe. But "you don't want to put a lot of heavy ointments on," Ceilley cautions. They can trap in heat.
At Wake Forest University, dermatology professor Dr. Steven Feldman also advises anesthetic sprays to numb the area, and for more serious burns a hydrocortisone cream.
But more important, "Don't get a sunburn," Feldman stresses. The advice:
Stay out of direct sun when it's most intense, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
When you are out, wear sun-protective clothing and seek shade such as beach umbrellas. Feldman likes to tell of the dermatologists' convention in Hawaii where beachgoers wore long-sleeved swim cover-ups and big hats.
Don't forget the sunscreen, especially on the face, hands and arms that are exposed to sun just about every day.
Sunscreen isn't a substitute for the first two tips, Feldman warns, because it doesn't guarantee protection if you stay out too long, use too little or miss a spot.
Still, picking a sunscreen should get less confusing next summer when new government regulations kick in. Those rules will prohibit claims like "waterproof" -- you do need to reapply after swimming or sweating -- and will assure protection against both types of skin-damaging UV rays.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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