Our planet earth is no longer in its best shape. Due to human activities, particularly the clearing of forests and burning of fossil fuels, we are now experiencing the greenhouse effect, which in turn causes the continuous rising of the average temperature in our climate, otherwise known as global warming. The same human activities also play a role in the ozone layer depletion. The ozone layer is responsible for absorbing the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Without the protective covering of the ozone layer, more ultraviolet radiation from the sun can penetrate into our atmosphere, causing a significant impact on every living being.
More than ever before, we are now more prone to sunburns because of the intense heat of the sun. This is especially true if you are not using any protective covering against the sun’s rays. Sunburn is an inflammation of the skin which can range from mild to severe.
Risk Factors for Sunburn
Sunburn develops when the ultraviolet radiation from the sun or other light sources exceeds the level that is tolerable for your skin. Additionally, there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing sunburn:
- Age – babies and children have sensitive skin which easily develops sunburn with prolonged sun exposure
- Type of skin – Fair or light-skinned people develop sunburn faster than those who are dark-skinned
- Time of exposure – exposure to the sun between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon makes you more prone to sunburn because of the strong rays of the sun during these times.
- Health condition – certain health conditions such as lupus make a person more sensitive to the heat of the sun. The same is true if you are taking certain medications such as antibiotic doxycycline which makes your skin more prone to sunburn.
Symptoms of Sunburn
The initial symptoms of sunburn may not appear until a few hours after exposure. But the full effect on the skin may only appear after 24 hours or even longer. Symptoms normally depend on whether you have first degree sunburn, second degree sunburn or third degree sunburn:
- Redness and tenderness of the skin
- Tingling or warm sensation when the affected area is touched
- Blisters that can develop hours or days after
- Peeling of the sunburned area of the skin
Most of these symptoms are normally just temporary. However, sunburns may leave permanent skin damage to the skin which includes skin cancer.
Home Remedies for Sunburn
Once you feel the initial symptoms of sunburn, there are some home remedies that you could try:
- Take a cool bath or shower to cool off the sunburned area
- Apply vinegar for sunburn by soaking a clean cloth in a vinegar solution (equal parts vinegar and water) and putting it on affected area
- If you develop blisters, apply dry bandages to prevent infection
- Relieve discomfort by applying a moisturizing cream. However, do not use oil-based products such as petroleum jelly as they block pores and may cause infections
- If the affected area gets too painful, you can alleviate the pain with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- To reduce inflammation, you could apply cortisone creams
It is important to note that aspirin must not be given to children to treat the symptoms of sunburn. Also, avoid using products with lidocaine or benzocaine as they may worsen the sunburn.
When to Call a Doctor
Call your doctor if the following symptoms are noted:
- Fever, nausea, chills or rashes
- Dehydration or heat exhaustion
- Dizziness or fainting
- Rapid breathing or rapid pulse
- Clammy, pale or cool skin
- Excessive thirst with no urine output
- Sunken eyes or eyes that are sensitive to light
- Severe and painful blisters
Sunburn is a serious condition that can permanently affect your overall health. It would be good to find all means to prevent this condition. One way is by applying SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure when the sun is at its strongest.