What Are the Basics of Sunburn?

What is sunburn?

Sunburn is an inflammation or blistering of the skin that  results from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation especially from sunlight.

What are the signs and symptoms of sunburn?

Sunburns can be classified into superficial, or partial thickness burns. And the severity of the pain of sunburns varies in proportional to both the duration and intensity of exposure.

Signs and symptoms of sunburn can include:

  • Redness (erythema);
  • Varying degree of pain;
  • Blistering;
  • Swelling (edema);
  • Pruritus (itching);
  • Peeling skin;
  • Rash;
  • Nausea;
  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Fainting (syncope).

What are the causes of sunburn?

Sunburns can be attributed to factors from following five aspects:

1. Biological

  • Direct DNA damage caused by UV radiation, from either the sun or artificial sources like tanning lamps, welding arcs, or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation;
  • Indirect DNA damage;
  • Skin type-determine the ease of the sunburn;
  • Age;
  • Genetic conditions, e.g. xeroderma pigmentosum.

2. Medications

Pharmaceutical products, including:

  • Certain antibiotics;
  • Oral contraceptives;
  • Tranquilizers.

3. UV intensity

According to Wikipedia, the UV index indicates the risk of getting a sunburn at a given time and location.

Contributing factors

  • The time of day;
  • Cloud cover;
  • Proximity to reflective surfaces, such as water, sand, concrete, snow and ice;
  • The season of the year;
  • Altitude;
  • Proximity to the equator (latitude).

4. Ozone depletion

5. Tanning

How to diagnose sunburns?

The diagnosis of sunburn includes:

  • Phototoxic reactions;
  • Photoallergic reactions;
  • Phytophotodermatitis;
  • Polymorphic light eruption;
  • Solar urticaria;
  • Other skin diseases exacerbated by sunlight.

To make exact diagnosis, doctors should take into consideration following factors:

  • Duration and intensity of UV exposure;
  • Use of topical or systemic medications;
  • History of dermatologic disease;
  • Nutritional status.

What are the treatment options for sunburn?

Treatment for sunburn is focused on relieving reddened inflamed skin and easing pain, including:

  • Take cool baths or showers frequently;
  • Use soothing moisturizers that contain aloe or soy;
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin;
  • Keep hydrated and drink extra water;
  • Do not pop blisters on a sunburn;
  • Protect sunburned skin with loose clothing.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.