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How To Treat a Sunburn & When You Should Go To the Doctor

Contributed by: Rachana Arya

Introduction

Did you know that soaking too much in the sun – and other ultraviolet light – can cause lasting damage to your skin?

However, despite health warnings about sun damage, most of us don’t take sunburns seriously.

Maybe it’s because they heal on their own and don’t appear to do much harm to our bodies aside from a little discomfort.

But skin experts warn that frequent and severe exposure to the sun’s burning rays can lead to major skin concerns in the long run.

Following exposure, the sunburnt skin may become characterised by:

Redness
Itchiness
Sensitive to touch
Tenderness
Pain
Irritation
Peeling 
Blistered or heated Skin

The discomfort of sunburned skin is excruciating, and it becomes worse every time something comes into touch with it.  

Let’s have a look at what these are, how to treat sunburns, what to do if it happens, and when to seek medical help.

Sunburn causes

Sunburn is the result of unprotected exposure to the sun. The sun emits three different wavelengths bands of ultraviolet light:

UVA
UVB
UVC

While UVC rays do not reach the earth, the other two do, and they are what cause sunburns.

UVB rays are solely harmful to the skin’s top layer. UVA rays, on the other hand, penetrate deeper into the skin and stimulate the creation of melanin, a pigment that gives the skin its colour.

Melanin overproduction causes a suntan, which protects your skin to some extent.

However, tanning implies that UVA photons from the sun have already reached your skin and caused DNA damage.

UVA radiations are known to cause collagen breakdown in the skin, resulting in wrinkles and spots.

Symptoms of sunburn

Sunburn is a common—even anticipated—outcome of prolonged exposure to the sun.

It is simply an inflammatory reaction of the skin caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damaging its outer layers. Your sunburn may be minor or severe. 

Sunburn redness normally disappears between 3 to 7 days. Blisters, on the other hand, can take up to ten days to heal.

Remember that sunburn symptoms can emerge anywhere from a few hours to a few days after you’ve been exposed to the sun.

The former can be managed at home, while the latter may necessitate medical assistance.

Home remedies & sunburn treatment

Suffering from sunburn? Taking—and avoiding—specific actions can make a difference in how fast you heal from mild to moderate sunburns:

Cool it down

Apply cold compresses to the sunburned region for pain management. Do not apply ice directly to the sunburn.

Bathe in cool, not ice-cold water, as an extreme temperature change could tax your already hard-working immune system.

Avoid using harsh soaps while doing so.

Moisturize

To take the sting out of your sunburn, apply a light moisturising moisturiser or gel or calamine lotion when the skin is damp.

Sunburn lotions containing aloe vera are effective to boost the moisture content of the skin beneath.

You might also try refrigerating the cream first to soothe your sunburned skin.

Hydrate

Most experts agree that the best way to replace lost body fluids and replenish electrolytes is: to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate.

Sunburns induce dehydration in the rest of your body because fluids are drawn to the skin’s surface.

Consume plenty of water, juices, and sports drinks to stay hydrated.

Clothing

While recovering from sunburn, wear loose cotton clothing. Harsh materials can aggravate skin problems and make them worse.

Glutathione

Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that helps to brighten and protect the skin. 

Medications

To help manage pain and inflammation, take pain relievers and oral rehydration salts.

Use antihistamine medicines to reduce itching, and corticosteroid lotions to mend broken skin.

Preventing sunburn

You can’t always avoid stepping out in the light. However, here are some things you can do to ease your suffering and soothe the pain of warm heat radiating from your body.

This should go without saying, that you should avoid going outside in the afternoon while the sun is at its brightest. Stay indoors during that block of time, and opt for going out early in the morning or late at night.
Using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is really important in the short and long term. For optimal effects, reapply on a frequent basis.
Dress in sun-protective clothing that covers your entire body to avoid or minimize any issues while you’re in the sun.
Protect your eyes and face from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Complications

While most symptoms of sunburn are usually temporary, the damage of sunburn is often permanent, which can cause irreversible skin damage.

The long-term effects of repeated bouts of sunburn can trigger the development of sunburn cells, which can have serious long-term effects.

If this damage is left unrepaired, it can be extremely problematic as cumulative UV exposure may cause abnormal cells to develop, and even raise your chance of developing skin cancer.  

Final thoughts

While rarely life-threatening, severe sunburns can be dangerous. In more severe cases, sunburn can cause additional symptoms, including:

Headaches
Nausea
Dehydration 
Vomiting
Chills
High fever

These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition (sometimes called sun poisoning), which can be extremely dangerous and should be reported to a medical provider.

As a necessary add-on, make a habit of taking preventive health checkups, especially during summers, as they can help you in getting a comprehensive insight into your health.

This will also help you with taking measures to promote your overall well-being.

Book The Full Body Health Checkup Today!

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