Sunburn: A Guide to Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment

Outdoor sun!

Some tell us to avoid it and some tell us we need exposure for good health. Statistics show some level of sun exposure can be healthy in producing stronger bodies through enhancing Vitamin D metabolism and promoting bone growth. However, when sun exposure becomes prolonged, an outbreak of sunburn may result. Not only is sunburn painful and irritating, it can result in the development of malignant skin cells and even death. With over one-third of the U.S. malignancies related to skin cancer, understanding the prevention, symptoms and treatments of sunburn will lead to a more healthy and fun filled summer.

When suffering with a case of sunburn, an individual will exhibit symptoms such as redness of the skin, nausea, vomting, chills, fatigue and weakness. In severe cases, blistering will develop. Most common symptoms result from over exposure to sunlight between 10am and 2pm as this is when UV light is most intense. Even on an overcast day, UV rays will still beam through clouds and haze resulting in an unexpected sunburn. While in the sun, exposure to three types of ultraviolet light creates the perfect atmosphere for sunburn to develop. Of these three types, ultraviolet B (UVB) rays creates the most significant exposure to sunburn while ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet C (UVC) cause premature aging, skin cancer and even eye damage.

When faced with a 10am to 2pm sun exposure, always use protective sunscreen with an SPF no less than 20 and look for a product marked “broad-spectrum” meaning it will protect against both UVA and UVB light. To avoid symptoms, treatment should include sunscreen that is applied every 30 minutes to ensure it is evenly distributed and has not dissipated with heat and naturally sweating of the pores. Other preventative treatment may include wearing hats to cover the most sensitive parts of your skin; neck, ears, eyes and scalp and wearing loose fitting clothing to cover your arms and legs. Children under the age of six months should avoid all sun exposure.

Once struck with symptoms of sunburn, there are a variety of treatment options available. Because sunburnt skin is more permeable, the applications of certain chemicals or lotions may further harm the already damaged skin. Home remedies should include soaking in an oatmeal bath, intaking additional fluids, and moisturizing the skin with various soothing products. When suffering from the symptoms of sunburn in combination with a fever and/or blistering, consult your physician immediately as the sunburn may have developed into second or third degree burning which could ultimately lead to infection and require more extensive treatment. A fever reducer such as aspirin or ibuprofen may also be used in your treatment selection.

Whatever the treatment option of choice, the primary consideration given to a sunburn is to prevent exposure from even occurring. When faced with exposure to UV rays, choosing the correct sunscreen, wearing proper clothing and refraining from the most intense light times of the day will significantly reduce your chances of suffering from the most painful, and yet preventable, of injuries and illnesses.

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