Caring for a Sunburn

In general, sunburn is caused by much too much exposure to sun. Almost all of us have had sunburns before or will have sunburns at some point in our lives.

Beach goers, athletes (runners, cyclists, swimmers, etc.), fishermen, farmers, or anyone who are always exposed to the sun can get sunburn. You can also get sunburn if you use tanning bed improperly. While sunburn is rarely fatal (sun poisoning), but it can cause slight discomfort to severe pain.

What causes sunburn?

Sunburns are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is divided into three wavelength bands, namely ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC). Only the first two UV rays reach the surface of the earth.

Both can cause photo aging (premature skin aging and wrinkles) and sunburn, but UVB is more damaging to your skin and can cause skin cancer.

Commercial tanning beds and tanning lamps also yield UV radiation and can also cause sunburn. Those living in regions at high altitudes and tropical countries located near the equator are prone to sunburn. Certain fair-haired and light-skinned people are also at higher risk of getting sunburn.

Symptoms of sunburns

Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the burn. In minor sunburn (first degree burn), the sufferer experiences redness or pinkness of skin, swelling, pain or tenderness, and a skin that feels hot or warm to the touch.

In major sunburn, where the burn covers a large area, small fluid-filled blisters develop and the individual suffers from fatigue, fever, and headache. Skin peeling may result in hospitalization. Your eyes can also burn since it is very sensitive to UV radiation. Frequent sunburns may lead to skin cancer.

Symptoms often manifest within a few hours following exposure to the sun. It usually takes a day to realize the severity and full extent of the sunburn.

How sunburns are treated?

One of the major goals of sunburn treatments is to ease the pain and make patients comfortable, especially in the days when the skin is most painful.

Common treatments for sunburns:

  • drink lots of water to avoid dehydration
  • take pain relievers like Motrin or Tylenol
  • take prescription pain drug
  • take cool showers
  • use prescription burn creams such as Silvadene
  • use oral steroids if needed; put soothing lotions on the affected area
  • have a cool wet compress
  • once the affected area begins to peel and become itchy, use topical moisturizers and an oral antihistamine
  • do not break the blisters as this will only spread the infection

How to prevent sunburns?

Prevention is still the best medicine. Follow these suggestions to avoid sunburn: avoid the sun as much as possible before 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon; cover up and wear clothes that will protect your body from the UV rays; use sun block always and liberally; and wear sunglasses when you are outdoors to protect your eyes.