Sunburn is skin damage triggered by ultraviolet (UV) rays. It causes the skin to become sore, reddened, warm, tender and occasionally itchy for up to a week. The skin usually starts to flake and peel after a few days and typically heal completely within 7 days.
Even though sunburn is often brief and mild, it is essential to avoid it since it can increase the risk for developing serious health issues such as skin cancer later in life. The redness does not usually occur for several hours. Being wet or the cool breeze can cool the skin, thus one does not realize that he/she is already getting burnt.
Management of sunburn
If an adult or child has sunburn, he/she must get out of the sun right away. Transfer to a shaded area or indoors.
The mild cases of sunburn can be treated at home, but there are cases where it necessitates medical care.
The following should be considered to alleviate the symptoms until the skin heals:
- Cool the affected area by placing a sponge with cold water or instruct the individual to take a cold shower or bath. You can also place a cold compress on the area as well.
- Provide the individual with plenty of fluids to drink to cool down the body and prevent dehydration.
- Apply a water-based emollient or even petroleum jelly to keep the skin moist and cool
- Provide pain medications to reduce any pain. Remember not to provide aspirin to children below 16 years old.
It is vital to avoid exposure to sunlight including through windows by covering the affected areas of skin until it has completely healed.
When to seek medical care
A doctor should be consulted or bring the individual to a healthcare facility if he/she feels sick or has concerns with the sunburn, especially if burnt over a large area or have any of the severe symptoms:
- Blistering or swelling of the skin
- Fever of 38 degrees C or higher or 37.5 degrees C or higher among children below the age of 5
- Headaches, dizziness and feeling sick
The doctor might recommend the application of hydrocortisone cream for a few days to minimize skin inflammation. In severe cases of sunburn, it requires the application of a special cream for burns and dressings. Occasionally, treatment at a healthcare facility is also required.