We have seen some of the worst sunburn cases and have rounded up a few pictures to give you an idea what the warmth of summer sun can do to your skin. Included also are some treatment options available for you to choose from.
Worst Sunburn or Worst Sunburn Ever – Causes
I see people complaining in online forums all the time that they have the worst sunburn ever after a weekend at the beach or by the poolside or a holiday vacation in a tropical country. And indeed some of the pictures they post are horrifying as you can see in a subsequent section of this article.
Worst sunburns, so to speak, result when the skin gets exposed to excessively intense UV rays from the sun or over a prolonged period of time. This damages skin cells, resulting in sunburn. Sunburned skin typically looks reddened or pinkish and feels warm and sore to touch.
Blisters and swelling are also common symptoms of severe sunburns and may appear a few hours of exposure or several days down the line.
Some places on earth experience particularly high doses of UV radiation due to numerous factors such as proximity to the equator or the poles, presence of water bodies and snows, high altitudes, and presence of buildings and other construction elements that concentrate the UV rays from the sun.
You can get severe sunburns in such places in a matter of minutes or even seconds of exposure to sun without wearing a sunscreen and other protective gears such as hats and sunglasses.
According to The Huffington Post, among the places on earth where you can very easily get some of the worst sunburns – if you forget to (re)apply sunscreen – are:
- Invercargill, New Zealand: This city is very close to the seasonal hole in the ozone layer
- The Vdara Hotel, Las Vegas: This scenic hotel was designed with a unique shape that was later found to concentrate UV radiation to the poolside resulting in severe sunburns in just a few minutes of exposure. This has since been reduced with protective films and plants, but Vegas sun is still one of the hottest nevertheless.
- Quito city, Ecuador: This city is very close to the equator where the sun hits the ground at almost ninety-degrees. Couple that with the high altitude (9,000 feet) and you have the right mix for crazy sunburn.
These cities and travel destinations have marvelous attractions to offer though. Just remember to wear a good sunscreen that is as close to SPF 30 as possible. You don’t want to go for anything less than SPF 15.
Whatever you do, remember that getting a suntan or sunburn – whether extreme or mild – is no good news. These are usually accompanied by skin cells’ DNA damage that can then lay the path for skin cancer.
World’s Worst Sunburn
“I have the world’s worst sunburn. What should I do?” that is a question asked by one of our readers in a comment section of another article.
Your best bet for one of those worst sunburns is to stay cool (cool baths and skim milk soaks) and moisturized (non-greasy lotions and aloe vera) while taking care of any symptoms e.g. pain, itching, and swelling with pain relievers, hydrocortisone creams, baking soda baths, and aloe vera gel among other remedies.
We have discussed these options in a subsequent section of this guide.
Worst Sunburn Pictures
There is no we would have winded up this topic without having a few shots from around the internet to show you the extent of the damage that enjoying the warmth of the sun and getting a tan can result into if you headed out without lathering up a sunscreen.
Pic 3, 4
As you can see, these pictures show some horribly sunburned skin that are pretty “aloe-thirsty” as Suzy Strutner of The Huffington Post describes it.
Extreme Sunburn Treatment
In most cases, you will be able to treat the symptoms of sunburn and facilitate the healing process without a doctor’s care. Some extreme sunburn treatments to consider are:
Over-the-counter pain relievers: Barton Schmitt, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado recommends taking a dose of ibuprofen as soon as the first signs of sunburn are observed and keeping it up for the next 48 hours. This reduces pain, inflammation and redness.
Acetaminophen can also help to reduce pain but is typically not helpful for inflammation.
Hydrocortisone cream: Applying 1% hydrocortisone creams, which are also available over-the-counter, also helps to relieve sunburn itching and inflammation. Applying such creams on the rectal and vaginal areas is however not recommended.
Oral antihistamines: You can also take over-the-counter oral antihistamines such as Benadryl to soothe any itching associated with the sunburn. Follow the instructions provided carefully and keep the medicines away from the reach of children.
What to do for peeling skin
Your skin might begin to peel a few days down the line. This is a natural part of the healing process according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. If that happens, use a water-based moisturizer to soothe the skin.
Although petroleum jelly products such as Vaseline, and butters such as cocoa butter and shea butter are usually effective moisturizers, they should not be used on sunburned skin. These products usually clog the skin pores which then trap in heat resulting in even more damage.
What about blisters?
The formation of fluid-filled blisters is also a common occurrence with extreme sunburns. Your best course of action is to just leave the blisters intact. They are there to protect your skin after all. You may also want to cover them with a dry bandage to minimize chances of infection.
If blisters break however, simply wash them with cool water and soap and apply an antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin or Polysporin.
When to see a doctor
Although most cases of sunburn can be treated at home, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends seeing your doctor for proper treatment if:
- You experience fever. This may be an indication of heatstroke
- You have sunburned more than 20 percent of your body
- A child’s entire back is sunburned
- You show signs of dehydration e.g. sunken eyes, extreme thirst etc
- You experience chills, nausea, or malaise (general weakness)
Extreme Sunburn Remedies
Aloe vera: Aloe vera has been scientifically shown to fasten the healing of skin after burns, including sunburns. The natural ingredients in Aloe vera also help to reduce inflammation and moisturize the sunburned skin.
Milk: Cold skim milk is also beneficial to sunburned skin. According to Zoe Draelos, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the coolness of the milk relieves the initial fire in sunburned skin and the resulting film of protein helps to ease the discomfort.
Drink plenty of fluids: Sunburn draws fluid to the surface of the skin and thus dehydrates the body. So drink plenty of water and other liquids such as sports drink, juice etc
Baking soda/Oatmeal bath: Oatmeal and baking soda baths are some of the best home remedies for sunburn itching. Simply add a cup of oatmeal or baking soda to your bath water, soak in it for 20 minutes, and then allow your skin to dry naturally.
Stay cool: Keep the sunburned area of skin cool by taking frequent tepid water baths or showers.