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What is Sunburn?
Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction in the skin after excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or other sources.
Symptoms and signs of sunburn appear within the first 24 hours after exposure and often peak within 72 hours. Skin changes range from mild redness to swelling, tenderness, pain and blistering. Fever, chills, weakness and, in severe cases, shock, may accompany the skin symptoms especially if a large portion of the body is affected.
What Causes Sunburn?
Burns appear when damage to the skin is caused by overexposure to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet light.
The ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburns can also increase the risk of two types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
How is Sunburn Diagnosed?
Burns are divided into three categories that rank the severity of the burns:
1. First-degree burns – Least serious. Noted by areas of the skin that are red and painful. May also be swollen and prone to peeling. These burns will fully heal with time.
2. Second-degree burns – Also known as partial thickness burns. They are more painful than first degree burns and may blister. Healing time is usually 2-3 weeks.
3. Third-degree burns – Also known as full thickness burns. Most severe of three categories. These burns are very rare and very serious. They affect all layers of the skin and leave the skin looking charred or white. Because the nerves that carry pain signals are damaged or destroyed, they may not be painful. The healing time for this type of burn can be very long.
Help and Treatment for Sunburn
The best treatment for most sunburns is time. Using cool and wet cloths on the sunburned areas may help hasten healing as well as applying soothing lotions containing aloe vera. Topical steroids and over the counter pain killers may also help with sunburn pain and swelling.
Many herbal and homeopathic remedies have been formulated with specific ingredients to encourage skin health at a cellular level and promote healing. Aloe ferox, Glycorrhiza glabra and Vitamin E oil have been used to help skin rejuvenate and heal – promoting the removal of dead skin cells.
Sunscreen is our best protection against sunburns. Make sure to pick a good sunscreen that is free of Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), oxybenzone, and spf over 50. Look for sunscreens with active ingredients of zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, Mexoryl SX or avobenzone. Also, consider that lotions and creams are usually more protective than sprays or powders.
- Cover up with clothing: Shirts, hats and pants shield your skin from the sun’s rays. A long-sleeved surf shirt is great for the beach or pool.
- Find the shade: Enjoy the weather under a tree, beneath an umbrella or a canopy.
- Infants: Keep infants in the shade, especially less than 6 months old. Use sunscreen only as a last resort if shade cannot be found.
- Plan around the sun: If your schedule is flexible, go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. UV radiation peaks at midday, when the sun is directly overhead.
- Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation, a cause of cataracts.
- Diet: A diet high in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables helps your body protect itself and heal from the effects of the sun.