Sunburn and Effects

Submitted by Patrick Hatfield on Mon, 06/15/2020 - 12:20 pm

Sunburns are awful consequences of too much time in the sun without proper protection.  Too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can cause damage to your skin.   

Symptoms 

The symptoms of a sunburn can include pinkness, warm skin, pain, tenderness, itching, fluid-filled blisters and even a headache or fever if the sunburn is severe.  Any exposed part of your skin that gets sun or clothing that has a loose weave can also get burned.  Your eyes are also extremely sensitive to the sun and can also burn.  The symptoms described usually appear within a few hours after sun exposure.  Your skin will start to heal itself by “peeling” the top layer of your skin that has been damaged.  After your sunburn, the skin underneath may be discolored and be sensitive. 

Doctor Visit 

Most sunburns do not require a doctor’s visit; however, if the blistering covers a large portion of your body or you are in extreme pain, have chills, or the sunburn doesn’t improve in a few days.  If you show signs of an infection, like tenderness and swelling or any pus draining from the blister, you should consider visiting a doctor. 

Cause 

Sunburns are caused by too much UV light, which is a wavelength of light that is too short for the human eye to detect.  Exposure to both types of UV rays (UVA/UVB) can be the cause for skin cancer.  Tanning beds are also responsible for producing UV light that can cause a sunburn.  The tan that we are looking for is really a defense mechanism where you skin tries to protect itself by accelerating the production of melanin. 

Side Effects 

Sunburns can lead to other issues, including premature aging of your skin, skin cancer, and even eye damage can occur that can leave your eyes feeling painful and gritty. 

Myths 

There are plenty of sunburn myths out there in circulation.  Some believe that if you can’t see the sun, it can’t see you.  However, the sun’s UV rays can still pass through the clouds.  Another myth is that 80% of sun damage occurs before you are 18; however, leading dermatologists agree that less than 25% of sun damage occurs around 18 years of age.  Youthful childhood sunburns can double your chance of developing skin cancer later in life.  Another myth is that if you have dark skin you don’t need sunblock, but the truth is that all of us that have skin can get skin cancer.  There is also a myth that the first sign of a sunburn is pinkness, but it could also be itchiness and hotness before the pink color displays itself.  One last myth is that higher sunscreen SPF doesn’t really protect you.  Studies show that SPF 100 sunblock protects you better than SPF 50, but it does not last longer, so you must reapply every two hours regardless of the SPF number. 

Prevention 

Make sure to cover up, avoid sun exposure during 10am to 4pm and wear sunscreen daily and reapply frequently.