Sunburn

1 What is Sunburn?

Sunburn is appearance of red painful skin that feels hot to touch. Usually appears after few minutes to hours after exposure to intense sun light. Sunburn may take several days to heal.

sunburn relief

Repeated exposure to sun and sunburn will increase the risk of patient to develop other skin diseases. They include: rough spots, wrinkled skin, dark spots, rough spots and skin cancers such as melanoma.

Sunburn related conditions can be prevented by protecting skin. Wearing proper clothing and applying sunscreens will protect the skin from harmful UV radiations of sun.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of sunburn include:

  • pinkness, redness,
  • skin that feels warm to touch,
  • pain,
  • tenderness or itching,
  • swelling,
  • small fluid-filled blisters,
  • headache,
  • shills,
  • fatigue if sunburn is severe.

Signs and symptoms of sunburn usually appear from few minutes to hours after exposure to sun.

Sunburns usually heal on themselves without any treatment by peeling. The top most layer which is damaged peels after sunburn. Severe sunburn may take several days to heal leaving and irregular color or pattern behind.

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3 Causes

Sunburn is caused by the exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This UV rays can’t be seen by human eye. Ultraviolet radiation A and ultraviolet radiation B are the two different radiations responsible for causing sunburns.

Melanin is the dark pigment of our skin which has the tendency to absorb ultraviolet radiations and keep the skin protected from harmful sun-rays. The amount of melanin produced is determined genetically.

Many people who don’t produce enough content of melanin are predisposed to the development of sunburns. UV rays have a tendency to cross through clouds. So one can easily catch sunburn even on cool cloudy days.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Sunburn is usually diagnosed with the aid of physical examination and some questions about symptoms.

Photo testing will be recommended, during this examination small areas of skin are exposed to measured amounts of UVA and UVB light to try to reproduce the problem.

If skin reacts to UV rays, then diagnosis of sunburn is established.

5 Treatment

Sunburn treatment doesn't heal skin or prevent damage. It reduces pain, swelling and discomfort.

If home care is not enough doctor might prescribe medications, they include:

  • Pain relievers- over the counter analgesics may help to control the pain and swelling of sunburn. Ibuprofen or naproxen are common medications used to relieve discomfort caused by sunburn.
  • Medications controlling itching- corticosteroids that can be topically applied on the skin to reduce itchiness in skin. These medications are often combined with pain relievers for better effect.

6 Prevention

Use methods to prevent sunburn, even on cool cloudy or hazy days. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wearing clothes which cover the whole body especially those clothes which are specially made to stop UV radiation.

Application of sunscreen frequently when going out in the sun. a minimum SPF of 15 or greater is recommended to protect against sunburn. Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect the eyes.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the following home remedies are used to treat sunburn they include:

  • Cool the skin- apply to the affected skin a cool compress such as towel dampened with cool tap water or take bath on cool water.
  • Apply moisturizer- a low dose hydrocortisone cream will reduce swelling and pain and aloe Vera lotion can also be used to reduce the symptoms.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Some of the following lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with sunburn:

  • Drink plenty of fluids- sun exposure and sunburn causes dehydration.
  • Treat peeling skin gently- within a few days, the affected area may begin to peel. While skin is peeling use moisturizer cream to keep the skin moist.
  • Avoid applying some products- products such as benzocaine irritate skin and cause allergic reactions. Applying benzocaine, the patient will develop a rare condition called methemoglobinemia.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with sunburn.

Having fair skin, living or vacation somewhere sunny, working outdoors, mixing outdoor recreation and drinking alcohol, having history of sunburn, regularly exposing unprotected skin to UV light from sunlight, taking drug that increases sunburn chances and unprotected skin.

Complications of sunburn are the following: 

  • Infection- ruptured blisters are more susceptible to bacterial infection. Signs and symptoms of infection include pain, redness, swelling and oozing blister. Premature aging of skin includes: weakening of connective tissues, which reduces the skin’s elasticity and strength, deep wrinkles, dry, rough sun, fine red veins on cheeks, nose and ears, freckles, mostly on face and shoulders, dark colored spots on face, back, hands and arms.
  • Precancerous skin lesions- they appear as rough, scaly patches in areas that have been damaged by the sun. they are also called actinic keratosis and solar keratosis.
  • Skin cancer- excessive exposure to sun, even without sunburn, increases risk of skin cancer, such as melanoma.
  • It can damage the DNA of skin cells. Sunburns in childhood will increase the risk of developing melanoma later in the life. Skin cancer develops mostly on areas mostly exposed to sunlight such as scalp, face, lips, ears, neck and chest.
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