Sunburn Description, Causes, Types, Symptoms, Treatment, Home Remedies, Medicines, Complications, Related Health Issues, Prevention and FAQ
What is Sunburn?
Sunburn is a radiation burn to the skin due to excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV) or artificial sources such as tanning beds. The biggest risk factor for sunburn is the amount of time the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays, as well as the intensity.
Many factors such as daytime time, medication, ozone reduction, high altitude, clear sky, and skin phototype affect sunburn. Increased number of sunburn increases the risk of getting skin cancer. People with white or pale skin are at a higher risk of getting sunburn.
Sunburn and Health Effects
Therefore, by understanding the causes, prevention and treatment of sunburn you can effectively safeguard yourself from skin cancer. This will not only improve your life quality, but will also reduce solar effects of aging resulting in better skin health.
Further, this article discusses the problems of sunburn and treatment and other important related Health information.
Causes of Skin Health Affecting Sunburn
Sunburn happens due to excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or similar artificial sources such as tanning beds. Many factors contribute to the facility and intensity of sunburn-
- Medication: The risk of sunburn is increased by Tetracyclines (Especially ‘doxycycline’), thiazide diuretics, sulfonamides, fluoroquinolones, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, retinoids and St. John’ s wort among the other photosensitizing drugs.
- Receiving too much UV rays:
It can happen if you-
- Stay outside with bare skin between 10am and 4pm (when the sun’s rays are at their strongest).
- Stay under the clear sky without cloud coverage and without sunblock cream.
- Sunburn has an increased risk in residents of high altitude areas due to a smaller layer of earth’s atmospheric protection.
- Come in contact with more direct UV rays in the vicinity of the equator.
- Ozone depletion: In some areas of the world, the Ozone layer has been depleted. It allows more of the sun’s UV rays to enter the atmosphere causing sunburn and other skin problems.
- Fitzpatrick skin phototype: The lighter the skin color, the easier it is to sunburn.
- Tanning: Sun tanning or spending more time under sun to get darker skin has been popular among the white population for decades. Tanning increases the risk of skin cancer and skin aging. Fast tanning can lead to sunburn.
Types of Sunburn affecting the Health
Sunburn is classified based on the severity of skin damage. Sunburn’s two most common types include-
1) First degree sunburn: Damage stays at the outer layer of the skin. It usually heals on its own within a few days to a week.
2) Second degree sunburn: Damage reaches the inner layer of the skin (Dermis). This can lead to blisters. It may take up to weeks to recover and treatment may be required.
The rarest type is ‘Third degree sunburn’. This type of sunburn:
- Severely damages all your skin levels including skin levels of fat.
- Nerve endings can destroy.
- Emergency treatment is required.
Health Symptoms of Sunburn
- Changes in skin tone, such as pinkish or redness
- Skin that feels hot/warm in touch
- Pain and tenderness
- Small liquid filled blisters, which may break
- Headaches, fever, nausea and fatigue (if sunburn is severe)
- Painful or sandy eyes
Signs and symptoms of sunburn usually appear within hours of exposure to the sun. But it may take a day or more to know its severity.
Treatment of Sunburn
Most sunburns usually heal on their own, without any interference. However, patients can take the following steps to treat their sunburn:
- Avoid sun to avoid further skin damage
- Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to reduce pain
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Apply topical creams like aloe vera or hydrocortisone cream while avoiding local anesthetic cream
- Cool colloidal oatmeal bath can help calm the skin
If you get severe sunburn that causes large amounts of flustering and large fluid reduction softens with electrolyte imbalance, the use of the parkland formula for rehydration is indicated.
Sunburn Home Remedies
- Sunburn Soothing Bath
After a long day in the sun and dust the first thing that you may desire is a cold rinse off. People like to take bubble baths. But if you apply soap on sunburned skin and take a bubble bath, it may cause skin irritation. Alternatively you can wash yourself with simple cold water and less harsh soap.
You can even add oatmeal to the bath water. Research shows that colloidal oatmeal helps in reducing inflammation and reduces itching. Mix the grounded oatmeal with cooled bath water and soak the body for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, gently pat dry the skin with a clean dry cloth, do not rub. Rubbing can make your skin more irritated.
- Soothe Swollen skin
Cold compress can be applied on the swollen skin due to the heat. It will absorb some heat from your skin, shrink the blood vessels, and reduce swelling. You can use ice cubes wrapped in cotton cloth for it. But remember only to pad the area, rubbing the cloth on skin may worsen the situation.
- Tea Bag
Research has shown that tannin acid in green and black tea can help absorb heat, while ketocin (antioxidant compound) repairs skin damage. It can be especially helpful if it burns your sensitive skin around your eyes. Soak only two teabags in cold water and place them on closed eyes to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
Also Read: Basil Tea Benefits: 11 Curing Properties
- Rash-relieving Powder
If your sunburnt skin is itching, you can add a pack of rash-relieving powder into your cold compress ice bag. Aluminum acetates present in such powders protect the skin from over drying or itching.
- Hydrocortisone cream
Use topical lotions, sprays, or ointments containing 1% hydrocortisone to reduce itching, inflammation and soothe skin irritation. Hydrocortisone has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce redness and mild sunburn pain.
Sunburn can dry out your skin, it is necessary to drink plenty of water to prevent dryness. If you can’t drink enough water at a time, prefer eating fruits and vegetables having nearly 90% of water content (such as watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, and cantaloops, etc.) several times during the day.
After taking a bath, apply naturally made pure oil on your skin and use moisturizing cream after the oil is absorbed by the skin. This will maintain skin moisture and reduce the risk of sunburn.
- Aloe Vera Gel
Apply aloe vera gel on sunburn affected areas. It heals by calming the swollen skin and reduces redness.
- Coconut oil
You can try applying coconut oil in sunburn affected areas. But remember not to apply it to the freshly burnt area, doing so can trap heat in your skin making the condition worse. Only apples when the skin is almost healed. To avoid side effects, always do a ‘Patch test’.
If you are Acne-prone avoid using coconut oil on your face, it can close your skin pores leading to breakouts.
Also Read: 11 Amazing Curing Benefits of Coconut Oil
- Avoid some medicines
If your burns are mild, OTC anesthetic may seem like a good treatment, but you should avoid products containing benzocaine or lidocaine, as they can cause irritation on your skin.
- Wear Soft clothes
To reduce painful rubbing and any sores that can cause further itching while your burn heals to reduce on your skin, avoid harsh fabric clothes. Prefer wearing cotton clothes instead.
Protect your sunburned skin from UV rays until it heals properly. Applying sunscreen containing SPF 30 or more and wearing protective clothing outside can do the magic.
What are the Health Complications of Sunburn?
Sunburn is a benign condition that usually heals on its own without further medical interference. However, the higher amount of sunburn is linked with the increased risk of developing skin cancer. Those who have suffered from many blistered sunburns before may benefit from having an annual skin test done by a dermatologist.
Sometimes sunburn occurs in a quite severe form which needs to be treated by the experts. In serious situations you can have blisters on the burnt skin leading to fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance. Such people can prevent the situation from deteriorating by seeking medical help immediately as soon as symptoms show.
The article provides some necessary information about the problem of sunburn, its health effects and treatments. This information is based on trusted sources and provided only for educational purposes. If the problem gets severe it is advised to seek expert’s help.
Also Read: Sunburn Treatment (Assamese)
1) What are the symptoms of sunburn?
A- The symptoms of sunburn are not immediately clear and can take 4-6 hours to develop, making the skin red and painful. If burns are more severe, swelling and blisters may develop. Often, these severe sunburns are accompanied by flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cold, nausea, headache, and weakness. After several days your skin begins to peel as soon as it gets rid of the sun damaged cells and it may feel itchy.
2) Who should apply sunscreen?
A- All; using sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer by protecting you from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Anyone can have skin cancer irrespective of age, gender or race.
3) Is it better to have high SPF creams?
A- Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen having at least 30 SPF, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UV rays. High SPF creams can block more UV rays compared to the lower numbered cream, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays.
It is also important to remember that high-number of SPF stays at the same period of time as the Low-number SPF cream. However, high-numbered SPF does not allow you to spend extra time outside without reapplying. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours when you are outside, even on cloudy days, after swimming or sweating. Read and follow the directions mentioned on the bottle you use.
4) Is Sunburn dangerous?
A- Sunburn with blisters is severe and covers a large part of your body. Such sunburns are accompanied by high fever, headache, severe pain, dehydration, confusion, nausea or cold. Skin infection is indicated by swelling, pus or red lines from the abscess.
5) Is ‘Vaseline’ good at Sunburn?
A- No, do not apply petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline), benzocaine, lidocaine or butter to sunburn. These worsen symptoms and can prevent or slow down healing.