What is sunburn? It is your skin’s response to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation in excess of your pigment’s ability to protect it. When skin is exposed to the sun, the production of melanin is accelerated to block UV rays. The result is a suntan, or more pigment.
However, when the extra melanin produced isn’t enough, then the sun’s rays can actually burn your skin. Or worse yet cause sun poisoning.
How much melanin you generate is genetically determined. So if you’re light skinned, sunburn can begin to occur in as little as 15 minutes of sun exposure. While dark skinned folks may be able to tolerate being in the sun for hours without burning.
A sunburn can happen even on cloudy or hazy days. The sun’s rays can reflect off snow, ice, sand, water or any reflective surface to burn your skin as much as direct sunlight. And sun burn materializes more readily the closer you are to the equator or at high altitudes.
Sun exposure can cause first and second degree burns. Symptoms of a burn from the sun are:
The first symptoms of a sunburn may not appear for hours and its full effect, including blisters, not likely until the next day.
Keep in mind that your eyes, earlobes, scalp and lips can burn as well. Your eyes are extremely sensitive to the sunlight and the symptom of sun burnt eyes is painfully grittiness.
With a severe sunburn, skin blistering may occur. As your skin begins to heal, the top layer of damaged skin may peel.
Some have severe reactions to relatively minor sun exposure, sometimes referred to as sun poisoning. Sun poisoning symptoms arise in addition to those of sunburn, including:
Although your sunburn and sun poisoning symptoms are usually only temporary, any skin damage can be permanent. Chronic sun exposure may lead to:
- skin cancer
- moles, freckles
- severe wrinkling
- actinic keratoses
- cataract formation
- premature skin aging
Burn from the sun first aid focuses on relief of your symptoms because there’s nothing you can do to get rid of the sun burn itself. Some of the ways to relieve your burn from the sun are:
- plain cool (not ice cold) baths
- cool compresses ~ milk & water, Burow solution
- apply aloe vera, aloe containing lotions, moisturizing cream
- avoid using products containing benzocaine, lidocaine, petroleum jelly
- use hydrocortisone cream on badly burned areas to decrease pain, swelling, speed healing
- start taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs early ~ aspirin (never to children), ibuprofen, naproxen
Leave your blisters alone and let them break on their own because they contain fluid that provides natural first aid to underlying skin. So breaking them slows the healing process and increases your risk of a skin infection.
Ruptured blisters make you more susceptible to a bacteria skin infection in particular. If any break prematurely, then put an antibiotic cream on any open sores.
Certain drugs can sensitize your skin to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, for instance antibiotics, psoriasis and acne medicines. And St. John’s wort may increase your probability of a sunburn. Also, a burn from the sun may cause other skin conditions to worsen, such as herpes simplex, lupus and porphyria.
- rapid pulse
- sunken eyes
- fast breathing
- extreme thirst
- no urine output
- feeling faint, dizzy
- headache, confusion
- severe, painful blisters
- pale, clammy, cool skin
- nausea & vomiting, fever, chills, rash
- eyes hurt & extremely sensitive to light
Applying a generous amount of sunscreen can help prevent a burn from the sun and sun poisoning. However, allow for s limited exposure initially so your body can produce health promoting vitamin D.