I don't know if there's anything I can say to fully prepare you for what you're about to see and read, so let's jump right into it: A teenage girl recently shared photos of the severe blisters on her back from a horrendous sunburn, and now her story's going viral.
Maisie Squires, a 16-year-old girl from Leeds, England, took to Facebook Thursday to share that, after being on vacation in Cuba, she developed a sunburn so bad the skin on her back ballooned out into two large, pus-filled blisters. The blisters were surrounded by patches of deep red-colored skin.
According to her Facebook post, Squires was only out in the sun, sea-snorkeling, for an hour, and applied sunscreen beforehand. "I didn’t realise [sic] my back was burning," she wrote, "but it has blistered this bad because it was very hot in Cuba." To make matters even worse, Squires said in the post that her blisters developed "just before a 9 hour flight back home to England."
On Friday, Squires shared an update to her condition, showing on Facebook a picture of the blisters on her back significantly deflated or popped altogether—though the severe redness was still apparent. Maisie also said in another comment that she visited a hospital for the burns but "they didn't do anything."
According to Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules, who saw photos of Squires's back, Squires likely has a "bad second-degree burn"—that happens when the skin blisters, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). But those blisters are actually a good sign, and shouldn't be popped: "Blisters help your skin heal and protect you from infection," per the AAD.
With second-degree blisters like Squires's, Dr. Jaliman says the best course of action is to see a dermatologist, ASAP. "There are special bandages to prevent scarring," she says. In addition to that, pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, cold compresses, and moisturizers like Aquaphor and Vaseline can help with pain and speed the healing process up.
Another important step in recovery with a severe sunburn: staying hydrated. According to the AAD, a sunburn can draw fluid to the skin's surface and away from the rest of the body, which can cause dehydration.
And as far as sun protection goes—you know, to avoid severe blisters on your back in the first place, or in Sqiures's case, avoid future sunburns—it's best to use one with broad-spectrum protection (that means it protects against UVA and UVB rays), has an SPF of at least 30, and is water-resistant, per the AAD. Also important: Get as much shade as possible; wear light-colored, protective clothing, and apply that sunscreen you should be wearing as directed (usually 30 minutes before you go out in the sun, and then every two hours).
As for Squires, I only hope that she's staying as comfortable as possible—and that she's working with doctors to help make sure the blisters heal properly.
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