Sunburn is radiation burn due to overexposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation mostly from the sun or sun tanning. Too much exposure can be dangerous, but a lesser amount of exposure would lead to a tan. Sunburns are considered a superficial burn. Extreme burns can result in hospitalizations. Sunburns can occur in less than 15 min. Some medications can create greater sensitivity to UV radiation, such as, antibiotics, birth control pills, and tranquilizers.
Suntan is a result of slight to moderate exposure that causes a release of melanin, a protective pigment that is the skin’s natural defense against overexposure. Suntans are viewed as exotic and desirable. Repeated extreme exposure over time can lead to damage to your DNA and skin tumors, dry wrinkled skin, dark spots, and freckles.
Those with the greatest risk for skin burns are those with fair skin, living or on vacation somewhere sunny or at a high altitude, work outdoors, and participate in outdoor recreation.
UV Index is the risk of getting sunburn at a specific location and time of day, such as:
- Time of Day 10 AM-4 PM- sun’s rays are at their strongest
- You can even get burn on cloudy days
- Reflective surfaces, such as, snow, ice, water, and concrete
- The position of the sun, which is greatest late spring and early summer
- The higher the altitude the greater the risk of a sunburn.
- Proximity to the equator- closer you are to the tropical regions of the planet 50% greater chance of getting sunburn.
- Incidence and severity of sunburns have increased worldwide because of damage to the ozone layer of the planet due to ozone depletion.Complications include skin cancers (Melanoma, basal-cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma), and sunburn to the corneas of your eyes.
- Appearance of sunburns include red skin that feels hot is caused by the increase of blood to the area to heal the burn. Also there is pain, fatigue, dizziness, swelling, itching, and peeling skin, rash, nausea, fever, and chills. Fluid filled blisters that can burst and become infected. After exposure, skin may turn red from 30 min to 2-6 hours. Worst of the pain is 6-48 hours after exposure. The burn continues to progress for 1 to 3 days. Skin peeling can last about 3-8 days.
Prevention is the Key: use hats/caps, clothes that cover arms and legs, and use wraparound sunglasses.
Moderate sun tanning without burning can prevent sunburn. A diet rich in vitamin C, and E can help reduce the amount o sunburn. Beta-carotene (Vitamin A) helps protect against sunburn. Protect your skin with sunscreen or sunblock. The higher the SPF the less the DNA damage is to the skin. Sunscreen helps prevent some forms of skin cancers. Apply 30 min before exposure and 30 min after exposure, and any time you get wet.
Treatment options include
- Pain medication- ibuprofen, naproxen
- Corticosteroids- for itching
- Cool the skin- cool compresses, cool shower
- Moisturizer- aloe vera, hydrocortisone cream
- Don’t break blisters- it is a protective layer, and breaking it will slow healing. If it breaks clean with soap and water and apply antibacterial cream and cover with a wet dressing.
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid further sunlight
- Products that contain benzocaine can irritate the burn and cause allergic reaction.