Sunburn occurs when the skin becomes damaged from UV rays from the sun. The layers of the skin turn red and can even blister. They eventually peel to reveal a new layer. Sunburn can occur from spending too much time in the sun without protection or from using a tanning bed. Sunburns have to heal on their own, but there are ways to soothe the pain associated with them and prevent them.
Causes of Sunburn
When the skin is exposed to the sun for long periods of time, it becomes burned and damaged. The amount of time it takes a person to receive a sunburn can vary. Fair-skinned people tend to burn much faster than people with dark or olive skin. The time of day and intensity of the sun also play a role in how bad a sunburn is or how long it takes for a person to become sunburned.
Symptoms of Sunburn
The symptoms of a sunburn can vary by person and severity. Some people only burn slightly and have very mild symptoms. Some people can burn severely and experience a wide range of severe symptoms. Some common symptoms of sunburn include:
Diagnosis of Sunburn
Most people can diagnose themselves if they have a sunburn. Severe sunburns might require special creams or treatments. Doctors can identify and diagnose sunburns with a physical exam. They might do tests to determine how severe the burns are and also check moles and skin damage to see if there are any signs of melanoma or skin cancer.
Treatment of Sunburn
Treatment is focused on soothing the symptoms of a sunburn, so the skin can heal and repair itself. Preventative care is also important. Sunscreen, hats, jackets, and lessening the exposure time can all help prevent sunburn. Some common treatment options include:
- Cold Compresses: Applying cold compresses to the skin can help soothe the burn and prevent itching.
- Aloe Vera Gel: This gel helps soothe the skin. It can remove the burn, stop the itch, and make the skin cool to the touch. Some people prefer to keep it in the refrigerator, so it is cold when applied.
- Pain Medications: If there is severe pain associated with the sunburn, over-the-counter pain medicine can be taken. This also helps reduce fever and swelling caused by the sunburn.
- Cool Baths: Some people are able to find relief by taking cool showers or baths. The water helps soothe the skin and can rinse off any dead skin, making it easier for new skin to grow.
- Water: Sunburns can cause people to become dehydrated. It’s always a good idea to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to help the skin heal faster.
Prognosis of Sunburn
Most people recover from sunburns in just a few days. Too many sunburns or even one really severe one can increase a person’s chances of getting skin cancer. Freckles, moles, and wrinkles can all result from sunburns. People who have been burnt badly should have regular checkups with a doctor or dermatologist to test for cancer or precancerous signs on the skin.
American College of Dermatology