Sunburn – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Sunburn is a burn to living tissue such as skin or leaves produced by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, commonly from the sun ‘s rays. Sunburn may also occur from exposure to other UV light sources such as solaria or tanning salons. At a cellular level, sunburn is associated with microscopic changes in the skin. There is the formation of UV induced sunburn cells and a reduction in Langerhan cells and mast cells, which play an essential part of the body’s immune defence system. Almost everyone has been sunburned or will become sunburned at some time. Anyone who visits a beach, goes fishing, works in the yard, or simply is out in the sun can get sunburn. Improper tanning bed use is also a source of sunburn. Although seldom fatal, sunburn can be disabling and cause quite a bit of discomfort.

Sunburn is a visible reaction of the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the invisible rays that are part of sunlight. Most of the sunlight’s damage to the skin is caused by the ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays, which have long been known to hurt the skin. UV-B rays penetrate through to the lower layers of the skin, damaging skin cells. While melanin, a dark pigment in the upper layers of the skin, can protect the skin from some of the effects of UV rays, different people have different amounts of melanin in their skin. This explains why some people get burned easier than others. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US and exposure to the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer. Children often spend a good part of their day playing outdoors in the sun, especially during the summer. Children who have fair skin, moles, or freckles, or who have a family history of skin cancer, are more likely to develop skin cancer in later years. Exposure to the sun during daily activities and play causes the most sun damage. Overexposure to sunlight before age 18 is most damaging to the skin .

Causes of Sunburn

1. Consumption of birth control pills

2. Antibacterial agents used in soaps

3. Outdoor activities like swimming, skiing and hiking

Symptoms of Sunburn

1. Chills.

2. Nausea or vomiting.

3. Swelling of the skin.

4. Dizziness or headaches.

5. Flu-like symptoms may develop.

6. Fever.

Treatment of Sunburn

Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat. Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation whilst paracetamol will also help. Avoid applying petroleum jelly or lotions which can hold the heat intact the burned skin. However, moisturizing lotions can be relieving. To alleviate the pain and swelling, patients may be asked to take aspirin. Increased fluid loss can occur through badly sunburned skin, so fluid replenishment with an ‘isotonic’ drink is recommended. Avoid more sun exposure until the skin completely heals, usually within one or two weeks.