Sunburn is when your
skin becomes burnt from the sun. Everyone can suffer
from sunburn, but children and light skinned and fair
haired adults are particularly at risk. Those with red
hair and freckles are the most at risk from sunburn.
The burn is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from
the sun and is the result of too much exposure to the
sun. The usual mild symptoms of sunburn are red or reddish
skin that is hot to the touch, general fatigue and mild
dizziness. Such mild cases should cause discomfort but
no long lasting effects. There may be some skin loss
or peeling which can be very itchy.
In recent years, the incidence and severity of sunburn
has increased worldwide, especially in the southern
hemisphere, because of damage to the ozone layer. There
is a fear of developing skin cancer. Malignant melanoma
(cancerous skin tumors) can occur as a result of damage
to the skin from over exposure to the sun and can be
fatal. Wrinkles and premature ageing can also result
from too much sun and this condition is called photoageing.
Another consequence can be premature cataract formation
in the eyes.
Tips to avoid sunburn
o A small amount of sun every day can be a good thing
as it produces beneficial Vitamin D in the skin but
we must emphasize the word small. Sunburn can occur
in less than 15 minutes.
o If you are going to be in the sun for leisure or
work activities, then you must wear protective clothing
such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and
long pants. Pay special attention to the back of the
neck which can often be exposed.
o Use a sun block with a high sun protection factor
as the higher the SPF number the more protection the
sun block will have. Make sure you apply enough sunscreen,
in thick layers, and that you reapply it at regular
intervals. If you are swimming or sweating, the sun
block is going to lose its effectiveness. Sunscreens
are not waterproof.
o Make sure you have a watch so you can keep an eye
on the time and recognize how long you have been in
the sun. Try to avoid sun exposure during the hours
of 10 am to 2 pm when the sun’s rays are most
o The use of alcohol or drugs can make you less aware
of the dangers of sunburn.
o If you are using certain medications such as antibiotics,
antipsoriatics or acne medicines, you may be even
more sensitive to the sun. And skin that has been
scarred or injured is even more susceptible.
o Certain skin disorders such as herpes simplex, lupus
and prophyria may become worse if you are exposed
to the sun.
o Stay away from tanning beds as these can be dangerous.
o Remember that the eyes are very sensitive to sun
exposure and preferably wrap around sun glasses which
block UV light should be worn.
Tips for the relief of mild sunburn
o Take a pain killer as this can be useful to relieve
some of the pain and discomfort.
o Take a cool bath but don’t use any bath salts,
oils or perfumes because they may cause a sensitivity
reaction. Don’t scrub or rub the skin and avoid
shaving. Use soft towels to gently pat yourself dry
and apply a light skin moisturizer but this should
be fragrant free.
o You can use a cool compress with equal parts of
milk and water on the affected areas.
o Keep out of the sun until all signs of your mild
sunburn have disappeared.
o Continue to keep the skin moisturized.
o Drink plenty of liquids.
You should seek immediate medical advice for sunburn
if any of the following symptoms arise:
o Severe headache, pain or blistering.
So be careful to avoid sunburn, take the necessary
steps to prevent sunburn if you have to be in the
sun for any length of time and treat any cases of
sunburn promptly. Remember that excessive UV radiation
is the leading cause of skin cancer.
o Nausea or vomiting.
o An acute problem with another medical condition.