Sunburn - Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Sunburn is caused by overexposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. It can range from mild to severe, and can even lead to skin cancer. To protect yourself from the sun's damaging rays, it's important to know the risks and take steps to avoid sunburn. Here's what you need to know.

Causes of Sunburn

Sunburn is caused when the skin cannot defend itself against the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Overexposure to the sun causes the skin to become red, hot, and inflamed. It can take hours or days to appear, and can last for several days. Sunburn can make skin tender to the touch and can cause blisters to develop.

How to Avoid Sunburn

Prevention is key to avoiding sunburn. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe in the sun:

  • Avoid the midday sun – The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so if you can, stay out of the sun during these hours.
  • Don't forget the sunscreen – Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and a broad-spectrum rating. Reapply it every two hours and after swimming.
  • Wear protective clothing – A broad-brimmed hat and long, lightweight clothing can provide an extra layer of protection.
  • Seek shade – Shade can provide a safe haven from the sun when you're outdoors.

Treating Sunburn

If you do get sunburn, there are a few things you can do to help relieve the discomfort. Here are some tips for treating sunburn:

  • Cool it down – Take a cool bath or shower or apply a cold compress to the affected area.
  • Soothe the skin – Apply aloe vera or another moisturizer to cool and soothe the burn.
  • Suck up some moisture – Drink plenty of fluids to help keep your skin hydrated.
  • Pain relief – Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help ward off discomfort.

When to See a Doctor

In some cases, sunburn can lead to serious complications. Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Extreme pain or swelling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blisters that cover large areas of skin
  • Fainting or dizziness

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away. Sunburn can lead to serious complications, including dehydration or infection.