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The symptoms of a sunburn are usually temporary, but the skin damage can be permanent and can develop into serious long-term health problems, including skin cancer, according to Health Canada. Mild sunburn results in skin irritation and redness and can be safely treated at home.

Possible symptoms include:

- Red, tender skin that is warm to the touch

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- Blisters that develop hours or days later

- Severe reactions (also called "sun poisoning") such as fever, chills, nausea or rashes

- Peeling skin on sunburned areas several days after the sunburn

How the sun damages your skin

What to do:

- Get out of the sun.

- Take a cool (not cold) shower or bath, or apply cool compresses several times a day. Do not wash burned skin with harsh soap.

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- Health Canada suggest avoiding creams or lotions that may hold heat inside the skin or may contain numbing medication (such as benzocaine or lidocaine).

- Aloe gel is a classic treatment. If you keep a plant handy, cut off a piece at the base of the plant and cut it lengthwise to expose the meat and put it directly on the sunburn, suggests Toronto holistic skin therapist Pauline Bakowski.

- Pure lavender oil (lavandula anjustifolia) is another natural treatment. It can be applied directly to the skin to ease burn pain and prevent scarring, says Ms. Bakowski. She also recommends adding 10 drops of lavender oil to one cup of aloe gel to use as a cool compress.

- Drink extra fluids for the next two to three days.

- If needed to relieve pain, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as directed. Antihistamines can also be helpful, says Jason Rivers, a professor of clinical dermatology at the University of British Columbia. (Health Canada does not recommend giving aspirin to children.)

- The best thing to remember is to prevent sunburn next time, says Dr. Rivers. Stock up on sunscreen.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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