What happens when you get sunburned?

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You lie out in the sun hoping to get a golden tan, but instead walk away from your lounge chair looking like a lobster that's been left in the pot too long.

 

What Causes Sunburn

You already know the simple explanation behind sunburn. When your skin is exposed to the sun for a period of time, eventually it burns, turning red and irritated.

Under the skin, things get a little more complicated. The sun gives off three wavelengths of ultraviolet light:

  • UVA
  • UVB
  • UVC

UVC light doesn't reach the Earth's surface. The other two types of ultraviolet light not only reach your beach towel, but they penetrate your skin. Skin damage is caused by both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunburn is the most obvious sign that you've been sitting outside for too long. But sun damage isn't always visible. Under the surface, ultraviolet light can alter your DNA, prematurely aging your skin. Over time, DNA damage can contribute to skin cancers.

How soon sunburn begins depends on:

  • Your skin type
  • The sun's intensity
  • How long you're exposed to the sun

Signs of Sunburn

When you get sunburn, your skin turns red and hurts. If the burn is severe, you can develop swelling and sunburn blisters. You may even feel feverish, with chills, nausea, headache and weakness.

A few days later, your skin will start peeling and itching as your body tries to rid itself of sun-damaged cells.

Sunburn Relief

Sunburn treatment is designed to attack the burn on two fronts; relieving reddened, inflamed skin while easing pain. Here are a few home remedies for sunburn:

Compresses - Apply cold compresses to your skin or take a cool bath to soothe the burn.

Creams or gels. To take the sting out of your sunburn, gently rub on a cream or gel containing ingredients such as:

  • Menthol
  • Camphor
  • Aloe

Refrigerating the cream first will make it feel even better on your sunburned skin.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other fluids so that you don't become dehydrated.
  • Avoid the sun. Until your sunburn heals, stay out of the sun.

You may be able to treat the sunburn yourself. But call for a doctor's help if you notice any of these more serious sunburn signs:

Preventing Sunburn

Here are some tips for keeping your skin safe when you're outside:

  • Watch the clock. The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear the right clothes. When you have to be outdoors, wear sun-protective clothing.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat.
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Use sunscreen. Cover any exposed areas of skin. The sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

Avoid being in the sun for too long as sun damage can cause premature ageing and over time can contribute to skin cancer. So stay hydrated, make use of that sunscreen in the back of your medicine cabinet and wear those shades!

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