Sunburn – Basics You Need to Know
|Sunburn – Basics You Need to Know|
Attitudes to sun exposure, tanning, and sunburn have changed greatly over the past few decades, mostly in recognition of the damage done to skin from excessive exposure to the sun. Once an accepted part of a day in the sun, sunburn is now a major cause for concern and is actively avoided by many people.
Sunburn results from damage to the skin by ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are two frequencies of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. Sunburn is caused by UVB rays, while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are responsible for premature aging and skin cancer. Limited sun exposure can be beneficial as the skin is triggered to produce Vitamin D. Ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week is sufficient for this production of Vitamin D.
Although sunburn can be sustained in as little as fifteen minutes, the symptoms take several hours to develop. Some drugs including certain antibiotics, tranquilizers, and contraceptives can increase susceptibility to sunburn. Symptoms vary with the severity of the sunburn, beginning with redness and heat in mild cases. The sunburned skin will be tender to the touch and may blister and peel.
Sunburn is often accompanied by dehydration and heat exhaustion. Symptoms of these conditions include nausea, dizziness, rapid pulse or breathing, and extreme thirst with little urine output. These are serious conditions and require immediate attention.
The best treatment for sunburn begins with prevention. If you are going to be in the sun, make sure you protect as much of your skin as possible. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. This is most effective if applied before sun exposure and then reapplied at regular intervals especially after swimming or sweating. Each sunscreen product will have recommendations on the label for the timing of reapplications.
Covering skin with clothing, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and wrap-around sunglasses will also help protect from sunburn. Where possible avoid the sun during the middle of the day as UV radiation is strongest from about 10 am until 3pm.
Once the skin is sunburned, there is no cure but time. The skin will have to heal itself. Treatment is aimed at reducing pain and discomfort. Work on hydration, both of the body and the skin. Drink lots of water and apply hydrating lotions to the sunburned area. Aloe Vera is very good for this, and there are many lotions and sprays you can use after sun exposure that contains Aloe.
Much of the discomfort of sunburn comes from the heat of the affected area. This can be reduced with cool baths or showers, or cold compresses. Taking over-the-counter pain relief such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen can help. Stay out of the sun until the burn is completely healed to avoid further damage.