Sunburn

Most sunburn is actually a first degree burn, and is accompanied by the familiar symptoms of tender reddened skin. More severe burns, with bright red colouring, swelling and blistering indicate that the burn has penetrated the surface layer of the skin and become a second degree burn.

Symptoms

Most sunburn is actually a first degree burn, and is accompanied by the familiar symptoms of tender reddened skin. More severe burns, with bright red colouring, swelling and blistering indicate that the burn has penetrated the surface layer of the skin and become a second degree burn.

Causes

The sun has two types of ultraviolet radiation important in a discussion of damaging effects to the skin. It is UVB rays which cause sunburn and the potential for skin cancer, although UVA radiation is now also considered to contribute to premature ageing and wrinkling. Reflected sunlight from sand, water or snow can also cause sunburn.

Certain drugs can intensify the harmful effects of UV radiation. 

Fair skinned people are more vulnerable to sunburn than darker people, but it is possible for anyone to get burnt if they are exposed for long enough at a time or place when the UV levels are high. 

Few cases of sunburn require medical care, however, extremely severe cases of sunburn (those involving extensive blistering, dehydration, or fever) usually require medical attention.

Natural Therapies

  • Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin A (betacarotene), vitamin C, and vitamin E can help reduce the risk of oxidative damage and promote healthy skin, especially when taken in conjunction with the minerals zinc and selenium 
  • Aloe vera gel and vitamin E cream are soothing to inflamed skin and assist the body's healing processes when topically applied 
  • Apply cold compresses, aloe vera gel or calamine lotion to ease itchiness.
Life Style Factors

Eat light meals and drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee, which can cause further dehydration.

When your skin peels or the blisters break, gently remove the dried skin and apply an antiseptic ointment or cream to the skin beneath to prevent infection. 

Remedies

Simple precautions will prevent most cases of severe sunburn. Use gel and cream formulations to block the damaging UVA and UVB rays. Try opaque formulations containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block radiation from reaching the skin. 

The best way to prevent sunburn is to limit your exposure to direct sunlight, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Take a look at your shadow: If it's shorter than your height, stay under cover. 

UV protective swim wear and shirts offer extra protection, as does wearing a hat.

Important Notes

Seek medical advice if your sunburn blisters and is accompanied by chills, fever, or nausea. Severe sunburn requires professional care to limit the risk of infection and to prevent dehydration. 

If your eyes are extremely painful and feel gritty, you should have them examined by an ophthalmologist to determine whether the corneas have been damaged by the sun. 

Extreme sunburn experienced during childhood is a risk factor for the development of skin cancer in later life. Protect your children even more carefully than yourself.