East Central Indiana
06/28/2017
Medical Dermatology

Sunburn

  • Sunburn 1
    Sunburn — the skin reddening caused by overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation — may seem like just a temporary irritation, but sunburns can cause long-lasting damage to the skin.
  • Sunburn 2
    A sunburn will result in pink or red skin that is warm to touch.
  • Sunburn 3
    The skin will also peel and blisters may form. Itching will usually accompany this, as well has aches, pain, nausea, fever, or chills.
  • Sunburn 4
    The only way to prevent sunburn is to protect the skin. Avoid being in the sun during the parts of the day where the sun is at its hottest.
  • Sunburn 5
    Apply sunscreen to all parts of the skin that will be exposed. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours at the least.

About

Sunburn

A sunburn is a burn on the skin caused by being unprotected in the sun’s rays for too long. A sunburn can be very serious, as it can lead to melanoma later in life.

Causes

A sunburn is caused by the body’s overproduction of melanin in the skin after being in the sun for too long or with no protection.

Risk Factors

Everyone who spends time in the sun is at risk for having a sunburn, but those with fair skin are more likely to burn. Those with darker skin may tan instead of burn. While there may be no pain or peeling along with the tan, the sun is still damaging the skin, and the skin can still develop melanoma. Some medications may also put a person more at risk for developing a sunburn.

Symptoms

A sunburn will result in pink or red skin that is warm to touch. The skin will also peel and blisters may form. Itching will usually accompany this, as well has aches, pain, nausea, fever, or chills.

A doctor should be able to diagnose a sunburn from an examination of the skin.

*Source:

American Academy of DermatologySkin Cancer FoundationMayo Clinic

Treatment

HOW TO SELF-TREAT FIRST-DEGREE SUNBURN

Apply a cream or lotion containing camphor, phenol, or menthol (Noxema is one). Alternate with cold compresses. To make a compress, place a handful of ordinary raw oatmeal, Aveeno Bath (a commercial oatmeal extract available at drugstores), or cornstarch in a large square of sterile gauze, clean cheesecloth, or any clean, loosely woven cotton fabric. Fold the ends of the cloth, run cold water through it, and wring out excess moisture. Place compresses directly on affected areas. Repeat as often as needed to obtain relief.

Between applications of cream and compresses, ease discomfort by applying ice wrapped in a clean cloth, or a clean cloth dipped and wrung out of ice water, chilled milk, or chilled witch hazel.

If you need more relief than provided by the measures suggested above, smooth on an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.

Take aspirin or Ibuprofen, if necessary, to reduce pain and swelling. Aspirin substitutes, such as Tylenol, are not effective in soothing sunburn discomfort.

If your face is affected, keep it well moisturized. Do not wear makeup until swelling has gone down and the redness has faded to pink.

For the first few days after exposure, bathe once or twice a day in cool water to which you've added several handfuls of Aveeno Bath. Drink plenty of liquids - eight full glasses of water a day - to help replenish body fluids lost through skin dehydration. Stay as cool as possible. Remain indoors near a fan or in an air-conditioned room (Warmth and especially perspiration can increase sunburn discomfort.) For more comfort at night, sprinkle cornstarch, talc, or powder on your sheets.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT SEVERE SUNBURN

If your skin turns very red and there is significant swelling accompanied by oozing or blisters, your sunburn requires medical attention. See your dermatologist. To prevent infection and other possible complications, you need more help than the measures above can provide, including, perhaps prescription medications containing corticosteroids or indomethacin. In some cases, hospitalization is required.

When you're back to normal, promise yourself to take proper precautions in the future. That means limiting time spent in the sun and wearing broad-spectrum, high SPF sunscreens every single time you go outdoors, whatever the season, and even in cloudy weather.

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  1. Blue Lizard® Face SPF 30+ 5oz

    $21.60
    A non-greasy, maximum protection sunscreen for the face. Learn More
  2. Blue Lizard® Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30+ 5oz

    $21.60
    A non-irritating, maximum protection sunscreen for sensitive skin. Learn More
  3. Blue Lizard® Sport SPF 30+ 5oz

    $20.70
    A maximum protection sunscreen designed for those with an active lifestyle. Learn More
  4. jane iredale™ Amazing Base Loose Mineral Powder SPF 20

    $44.00
    Loose mineral powder containing SPF 20 provides exceptional coverage Learn More
  5. jane iredale™ Powder-Me SPF Dry Sunscreen

    $47.00
    Powder dry sunscreen provides SPF 30 to the body, face and scalp Learn More
  6. SkinMedica® Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum SPF 34

    $68.00
    To prevent the appearance of premature aging from chronic exposure to infrared rays Learn More

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FAQs

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF SUN EXPOSURE?

The immediate danger of too much sun is sunburn. If you looked at sunburned skin under a strong microscope, you would see that the cells and blood vessels have been damaged. With repeated sun damage, the skin starts to look dry, wrinkled, discolored, and leathery. Although the skin appears thicker, it actually has become weakened, and as a result it will bruise more easily. However, sun's worst threat is that it is the major cause of skin cancer, which is now the most common of all cancers. Doctors believe that most skin cancers can be avoided by preventing sun damage.

DOES THE SUN HAVE ANY BENEFITS?

You may have been taught as a child that you need sunlight for your body to make vitamin D, because that vitamin is not found naturally in most foods. But today many foods are fortified with vitamin D during the manufacturing process. Thus, sun exposure is not as important for the body's vitamin D supply as it used to be. Of course, being outdoors makes most people feel good. And it's better for your health to play tennis, rather than to watch it on television. But you don't have to expose yourself to the sun's damaging effects while you're outside enjoying yourself and exercising.

HOW CAN I AVOID THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF THE SUN?

Staying out of the sun is the best way to avoid sun damage, but this is impractical. So when you go outside, take precautions. Try to avoid sun in the middle of the day, from about 10 AM to 4 PM. The ultraviolet rays, which cause sunburn, are the strongest then. When you do go out, especially for long periods in the middle of the day, wear protective clothing. You may feel great in shorts or a bathing suit, but you're exposing your skin to too much sun. Long sleeves and slacks, as well as a hat, help protect your body against the sun's harmful effects. Most importantly, always wear sunscreen. You should put it on every day. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth.

WHAT IS THE SPF IN A SUNSCREEN?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. It tells you how long you can stay in the sun without burning. For example, a sunscreen with an SPF of 8 means you can stay in the sun eight times longer wearing the sunscreen than you could without any protection.

I DON'T BURN VERY OFTEN. DOES THIS MEAN I CAN USE A SUNSCREEN WITH A LOW SPF?

If you were only trying to avoid a sunburn, the answer would be yes. But that's not the real reason to use a sunscreen. You want to reduce damage from the sun. Your skin can be harmed by constant sun exposure, whether or not you see a burn. Remember, a sunburn is an immediate reaction, but damage from the sun occurs over a lifetime. Dermatologists recommend that almost everyone use a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. However people who burn very easily, or have certain conditions might need stronger sunscreens.

WHO SHOULD USE SUNSCREENS?

Everyone-men, women, and children; people who tan easily and those who don't; fair-skinned and dark-skinned people, including those who already have tans; sunbathers, gardeners, and skiers. Anyone who spends time outdoors should use a sunscreen.

ARE SUNSCREENS SAFE FOR CHILDREN?

Not only are sunscreens safe for children, but regular use of these products in childhood can prevent serious problems in later life. Recently, a researcher reported that if sunscreens were used regularly by children through the age of 18, there would be a 72% reduction in skin cancer in later life.

HOW SHOULD SUNSCREENS BE APPLIED?

Put sunscreen on in the morning or before going out. Women should apply sunscreens under makeup. If you wait to apply it when you hit the beach, you may already be perspiring, and moisture makes sunscreens less effective. If you are getting a lot of sun or perspiring heavily, reapply sunscreen every hour or two. Always put on sunscreen after swimming.

MY SKIN IS SENSITIVE. SHOULD I SKIP THE SUNSCREEN?

Some ingredients in certain sunscreens may irritate the skin. If you know you react to specific ingredients, be sure to check the contents on the label. You also could ask us to recommend a sunscreen.

However, a reaction may not be the sunscreen's fault. Other things you have used on your skin, including perfumes and certain medications, may make you more sensitive to sun. So think about what other products you have used, and eliminate these before stopping the sunscreen.

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