Sunburn is the problem of skin turning red, swollen and sometimes painful because of exposure to the UXV rays emitted from the sun. It can be mild for some while can get severe for others. If you go out in the sun every day, over time you might have noticed red patches of tan on your skin, this suntan if not treated soon can turn into severe sunburn. Sunburn treatment becomes necessary if not relieved over time.
The extent of sunburn is based on the skin type and amount of sun exposure. It can be an important factor for skin cancer. The sunburn risk increases as you go nearer to the equator because of the changes in the intensity of UV rays through the atmosphere. When you are on a higher latitude area, the intensity of UV rays is reduced.
Calculating the intensity of UV rays for every minute, it depends on the angle of the sun. The most risky time to get out in the sun is during noon, when the sun is right over you.
If you are scared of getting affected by sun spots on your skin, here’s everything you need to know about sunburn, from treatment, symptoms to further health risks.
Sunburn Treatment methods
5 Best ways to treat sunburn in adults
Act early to get quick relief
If you are out in the sun, close to a lake, ocean or cold pool, take a dip in the water to cool down your skin. Remember, only for a few seconds as to not increase your time in the sun. As soon as you come out of the water, cover your body and go under a shelter to avoid sun exposure. If it’s a bad burn, use cold compress over the burnt area. Use ice water for cold compress but do not use ice directly on the affected area. You can also take a cold bath or shower, but gain not for too long. Do not use harsh soap to avoid skin irritation.
Moisture your skin while it’s damp
While your skin is still damp, apply a mild moisturizing lotion. DO this for a few days regularly to soothe the peeling or burned skin. Do not use oil-based or petroleum ointments on the affected area.
Reduce the inflammation
According to Dr. Brackeen from the Skin Cancer Institute in Lubbock, Texas, you can take NSAID (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) like naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin at the very first sun spots on your skin. It helps reducing inflammation and discomfort. You can use this medication until the affected area feels better. Alternatively, you can also use 1 percent cortisone cream to help calm the swelling and redness. It is easily available and medical stores, take it as directed by the chemist.
Aloevera can also be a good product to soothe mild burns. Keep using cool compress, wear soft, loose and breathable clothes to get relief from skin irritation. Stay away from the sun until the burn heals completely.
Drink more fluids to stay hydrated
According to Dr. Brackeen, sunburns draw fluid to the surface of your skin, moving it from other parts of your body. This can make you hydrated, so it’s important you drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks and water. Sports drink help in replenishing electrolytes to heal your skin.
Go to a doctor
Seeing a doctor for sunburn becomes important when there’s severe blistering on a large area of your body, which doesn’t improve with the above-mentioned ways. If you get chills and fever, going to a doctor is recommended. Do not pop or scratch blisters. It can lead to severe infection.
A baby’s skin is sweet-smelling, soft and vulnerable. You can understand that when you come across an irritation while changing the diapers. Well, that can be easily treated using a soothing cream.
Talking about sunburns in children, a baby less than 6 months should not be exposed to sun at all in the first place. For a baby older than 6 months, you should protect them from sun. Make them wear UV-blocking glasses to keep their eyes protected from the harsh rays.
However, if ever your kid gets sunburned, here are a few ways that can help:
- Bathe in clear, cool water for soothing the skin.
- If your baby is less than one year, treat sunburn as an emergency and call a doctor right away.
- If you have a kid older than a year, try using soothing cream. In case of fever, lethargy, severe pain or blistering, reach out to your doctor immediately.
- Keep your baby hydrated with juice, water or other fluids. If you notice irregular urination (usually it’s less than normal), it calls for an emergency.
- Never apply alcohol on the child’s skin as it can overcool the skin.
- Apply mild moisturizing lotion to give a soothing effect to the burnt skin. However, do not rub it.
- You can also dab plain calamine lotion over the affected area. Don’t use an added antihistamine.
- Do not use medicated cream like benzocaine, hydrocortisone, unless your doctor prescribes it.
- Until the burn heals, keep your kid away from sun.
- No matter where your child goes, make sure he/she is protected well from the sun.
Symptoms of sunburn
Often sunburn remains untreated and leads to severe skin problems as not everyone is able to identify sunburn. People seldom confuse between a mild suntan and serious sunburn. Suntan and sunburn are similar but not the same thing.
To understand the condition better, it is important to know the symptoms of sunburn. For some it could be mild redness and skin irritation to start with, while others might experience severe effects like blistering.
Severe cases of sunburn include symptoms like:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin irritation
For extreme cases, a person might show shock symptoms, such as:
- Low blood pressure
- Extreme weakness
Sunburn can be caused in less than 15 minutes, but the effect is not seen immediately. Post exposure, the skin can turn red in just 30 minutes, but in most cases, noticeable redness occurs around 2 to 6 hours after sun exposure. The sunburn keeps developing for 1-3 days, in cases followed by peeling of skin in 3-8 days. Itching and peeling may continue for a couple of weeks or more.
Getting sunburn diagnosed
A mild sunburn doesn’t need a doctor’s visit, but if you notice severe symptoms, it definitely requires medical attention. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and sunburn symptoms. He/she will carry out a physical exam and if the symptoms are serious for a physician to treat, you will be referred to a skin specialist or dermatologist who is specialized in skin disorders.
Prevention of sunburn
The most effective way of avoiding sunburn is to limit your exposure to direct sunlight. You can do this by:
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes
- Sit in shady areas
- Avoid leaving your home during the hottest time of the day
- Apply sunscreen whenever you leave the house
Choosing the right sunblock
Sunblock or sunscreen lotions are commercial products used to block the harmful UV rays from the sun. They have certain level of sunburn protection factor (SPF) rating, which helps determine the ability of the sunscreen to combat sunburn. As per experts, the higher the SPF, the lower are the chances of skin damage.
Using a sunscreen with SPF 10 can block 90% of the harmful Ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn. An SPF 20 sunblock can restrict 95% of the UVB radiation. Modern sunscreens available in the market consist of UVA and UVB radiation filters. UVA radiation might not be the reason of sunburn, but it is equally responsible for skin damage like aging and skin cancer. SO, we would suggest you to use a sunscreen that provides protection against both UVB and UVA radiation.
It is recommended to apply sunblock at least 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun. You can reapply another layer after 30 minutes of exposure in the sun.
Home remedies for treating sunburns
- Use a cold compress at the area of sunburn to get instant relief from the pain and burning. You can use a compress with Burow’s solution (such as 1 packet of Domeboro powder packets in one pint of water) to get a soothing effect in the burnt area.
- Take a cool bath or shower for comfort.
Try some of these natural bath ideas to ease the sunburn pain and various other symptoms.
- For an itchy and sunburned skin, soak in an oatmeal bath.
- Add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath as it promotes faster healing and helps to balance the pH of your sunburned skin.
- Add 2 cups of baking soda to your bath because it eases redness and irritation in the sunburned area of the body.
- Add little chamomile or lavender essential oil to your bath, helping to relieve the pain and stinging of the sunburned skin.
- Avoid perfumes or soaps for bath as these products can dry the sunburned skin.
Important facts about sunburn
- Some people are prone more to sunburn: Your skin type and complexion are important factors to determine the susceptibility to sunburn. People with fair skin are more prone to sunburn. However, everyone should stay protected.
- UV index is an important factor: The sun varies in the intensity of UV rays with changing seasons, geographic location and time of the day. High UV index indicates that unprotected skin will burn severely and faster. So, never leave out from your house without applying sunscreen.
- Sun exposure increases the risk of cancer: Even if it’s a suntan, or your complexion is dark, direct sun exposure can still increase the risk of skin cancer, causing cellular damage.
- You can also burn on a cloudy day: If you think there’s no need to put a sunblock on a cloudy day, you are wrong. UV rays can penetrate clouds and reach you, even when there’s no sun shining in the sky.
Sunburn risks you should know
- Repeated sunburns increase the risk of severe skin diseases: In case of people who are fair-skinned, mainly the ones with genetic predisposition, sunburn can be a reason for melanoma. According to research, UV rays that causes skin damage can also result in further skin disease that can progress into a cancer.
- Sports persons or people working outdoors are at a greater risk: If you are a sportsperson or have to stay outdoors for longer hours for work, you are more prone to skin cancer. Stay protected from the sun.
- More than five sun burns can double the risk of deadly melanoma.
- Skin damage takes time to build: Skin damage starts building up rights from the first sunburn and continuous with increasing sunburns, putting you under the threat of skin cancer.
- Even single blistering sunburn during adolescence or childhood can double your chances of getting affected by melanoma in the later stage of life.
The Bottom Line
The harsh UV rays from the sun can cause extreme damage to your skin, causing sunburn and increasing the risk to skin cancer. Sunburn treatment and protection from the sun is very important to stay away from severe skin problems like, early aging, skin cancer and more.
You can also try some home remedies and essential oils to ease the pain, redness and itchiness on the sunburned skin. However, these are only useful in mild cases of sunburn. You must see a doctor if the home remedies don’t show healing effects in a day or two.
Sunburns can cause serious skin diseases like melanoma, skin cancer and other severe problems. People working outdoors or sportspersons should take all the necessary precaution when going out in the sun to protect themselves from sunburn.