How does sunburn occur?

Sun emits ultraviolet radiation that reaches Earth’s surface. This ultraviolet radiation is causing skin cell damage, which your skin is constantly trying to repair. A skin tan is a sign of your skin’s struggle with the genetic damage caused by the ultraviolet radiation.  While we are designed or evolved to live under the sun, sometimes even 15 minutes of exposure to sun can cause burns in very light-colored individuals. Sunburn is a sneaky injury, since it can take up to 5 hours to show up as painful redness. So, if you do not plan protection from the sun ahead of time, or if you do not pay attention about the duration of exposure to the sun, the chances are that you will end up with a sunburn.

What is the treatment of the sunburn?

Staying away from the sun, and gently cooling the skin is the first step. For pain you can take aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen pills as early as possible, since later on they may not work well. You should avoid any sun exposure after taking theses pills, since they can make your skin easier to get sunburned. Redness should resolve within 3 days.

When should I see my health care provider for sunburns?

In general, if you have severe pain with blisters, or if you develop any malaise, nausea, headache and fever similar as in flu, you should immediately seek help.

How can I protect my skin from sun?

The best would be to stay away from sun, or at least seek shade between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wear lightweight, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. In good old times ladies wore gloves and carried parasols as well.  Second step would be to generously apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30. Our family’s favorite is Banana Boat Kids SPF 50  (with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide), which is, by the way, currently one of the cheapest sunscreens.

Also, avoid any tanning, since tan is a sign of skin’s struggle with a genetic damage caused by the ultraviolet radiation. Not everyone who tans will get skin cancer, but everyone will age much faster. Therefore, if you want to preserve your youthful look, please consider the information above.  We also like to point one fact to our patients – The Sun is a humongous nuclear reactor in the sky, and there is only an empty space between you and that nuclear reactor. When you think like that, it is a bit easier to follow the above recommendations. Worth of mentioning is an iconic Slip-Slop-Slap sun protection campaign in Australia during the 1980s.

It stands for:

Slip on a shirt,

Slop on the 30+ sunscreen,

Slap on a hat

For more specific questions on burns please send us your question using our blog below.

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