Sunburn: Symptoms, treatment and prevention


Sunburn is a visible reaction of the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation or UV light sources, invisible rays that are part of sunlight. Your skin can burn if it gets too much sun without proper protection from sunscreen and clothes.

Although sunburn may seem like a temporary condition, it can cause long-lasting damage to the skin. This damage increases your risk for getting skin cancer and premature aging. Due to this, it is critical to protect the skin from the sun.

What are the symptoms of sunburn?

The following are the most common symptoms of sunburn. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Pain
  • Blisters
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness, confusion, or faintness
  • Dry, itching, and peeling skin days after the burn

Treatment for sunburn

To help heal and soothe stinging skin, it is important to begin treating sunburn as soon as you notice it. The first thing you should do is get out of the sun—and preferably indoors. Once indoors, these tips can help provide relief:

Take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain

If you’re near a pool or beach, take a quick dip to cool your skin, but only for a few seconds so you don’t prolong your exposure. Then cover up and get out of the sun immediately. Continue to cool the burn with cold compresses but don’t apply ice directly to the sunburn. As soon as you get out of the water, gently pat yourself dry, but leave a little water on your skin.

Use a moisturizer while the skin is still damp

While skin is still damp, use a gentle moisturizing lotion but not petroleum or oil-based ointments. Because they may trap the heat and make the burn worse. Use the one that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin such as hydrocortisone cream.

Take painkillers

Consider taking ibuprofen to help reduce pain. This medicine will also help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.

If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal

Blistering skin means you have a second-degree sunburn. You should not pop the blisters, as blisters form to help your skin heal and protect you from infection.

Drink extra water

A sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. Drinking extra water when you are sunburned helps prevent dehydration.

Take extra care to protect sunburned skin while it heals

Wear clothing that covers your skin when outdoors. Tightly-woven fabrics work best. When you hold the fabric up to a bright light, you shouldn’t see any light coming through.

Prevention of sunburn

  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is because, the sun’s rays are strongest during these hours. Try to schedule outdoor activities for other times.
  • When outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and clothing that covers you, including your arms and legs.
  • Wear sunglasses when outdoors. Choose sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Check the UV rating on the label when buying new glasses.
  • If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, apply sunscreen
  • Babies under 12 months should not be exposed to direct UV and should be well protected from the sun. Always try to keep babies and children in the shade and use clothing to cover most of their body. Use small amounts of child-friendly sunscreen on uncovered areas such as the face and hands whenever children are exposed to the sun.

About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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