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Being out in the sun can be good for you. Sunlight can brighten your mood and help you feel healthier. But getting too much of the ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or from indoor tanning can harm your skin. It can cause problems right away as well as problems that may develop years later.
A sunburn is skin damage from the sun's ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B (UVA and UVB) rays. Most sunburns cause mild pain and redness but affect only the outer layer of skin (first-degree burn). The red skin might hurt when you touch it. These sunburns are mild. They can usually be treated at home.
Skin that is red and painful and that swells up and blisters may mean that deep skin layers and nerve endings have been damaged (second-degree burn). This type of sunburn is usually more painful and takes longer to heal.
Other problems that can occur along with sunburn include:
Long-term problems include:
Your skin type affects how easily you get sunburned. People with white or freckled skin, blond or red hair, and blue eyes usually sunburn easily.
People with darker skin don't sunburn as easily. But they can still get skin cancer. So it's important to use sun protection, no matter what your skin colour is.
Your age also affects how your skin reacts to the sun. Children's skin is more sensitive to sunlight.
You may get a more severe sunburn depending on:
Preventive measures and home treatment are usually all that's needed to prevent or treat a sunburn.
If you have any health risks such as having diabetes or cancer, or if you take medicines that may increase the seriousness of sun exposure, you should avoid being in the sun from 11 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Many prescription and non-prescription medicines can cause the skin to sunburn more easily. A few common examples are:
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:
Symptoms of heatstroke may include:
Heatstroke occurs when the body can't control its own temperature and body temperature continues to rise.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Here are some things you can do at home for a mild sunburn.
Lotions that contain aloe vera may feel soothing to sunburned areas. Topical steroids (such as 1% hydrocortisone cream) may also help with sunburn pain and swelling. You may need to check with your doctor first if you need to use the cream for a child younger than age 2 or for use in the genital area.
There's not much you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn. It's part of the healing process. Lotion may help relieve the itching.
A sunburn can cause a mild fever and a headache. Lie down in a cool, quiet room to relieve the headache. A headache may be caused by dehydration, so drinking fluids may help.
There isn't clear proof that other common remedies are safe and effective, but they may help. For example, you can try an oatmeal bath product (such as Aveeno) or apply calamine lotion for itching.
A small, unbroken blister will usually heal on its own. Use a loose bandage to protect it.
If a blister opens, gently wash the area with clean water. You may cover the blister with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
Watch for a skin infection while your blister is healing. Signs of infection include:
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: Patrice Burgess MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineWilliam H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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