Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

With the arrival of summer, bringing forth its warm and sunny days, nature calls us to venture outside and bask in the golden rays of the sun.

Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Image Source: Dinodia

However, amidst this, there is a hidden danger that lurks beneath the brilliant sunshine: sunburn. Sunburn is a common ailment that affects millions of people worldwide, causing discomfort and long-term damage to the skin. 

What is Sunburn?

Sunburn occurs when the skin is excessively exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the sun, resulting in reddened, often irritated, and painful skin. The severity of sunburn can vary from mild to severe, depending on factors such as skin type and duration of sun exposure.

As one approaches the equator, the likelihood of sunburn increases. This is due to the varying strength of UV radiation as it traverses the atmosphere. Consequently, the intensity of UV rays decreases as the latitude increases, resulting in lower exposure to them.

Causes of Sunburn

Prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is the primary cause of sunburn. Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays which are part of the sunlight both contribute to sunburn. They damage the DNA within skin cells and trigger an inflammatory response. Several factors can elevate your susceptibility to sunburn, including:

  • Having fair skin

  • Having light hair

  • Being sensitive to sunlight

  • Taking medications like tetracyclines and thiazide diuretics

  • Having certain medical conditions such as lupus and psoriasis

  • Engaging in sun exposure without using sunscreen

Symptoms of Sunburn

The early symptoms of sunburn often manifest several hours after exposure. The affected skin becomes red, tender, and warm to the touch. In severe cases, blistering and peeling may occur, leaving the skin vulnerable to infection. Sunburn can also cause general fatigue, headache, and fever in some individuals. Continuous exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to long-term skin issues, such as wrinkles and dark spots.

Itchiness and dryness are common symptoms, and persistent itching can further contribute to discomfort.

Treatment for Sunburn

Immediate action is crucial to mitigate the damage of the sunburn and alleviate the associated discomfort. Here are some proven and effective treatments for sunburn:

Cool Compresses: Cool compress or a cool shower helps soothe the inflamed skin and provides temporary relief.

Moisturisers: Gentle moisturisers or aloe vera gel can be applied to the affected areas to hydrate the skin and promote healing.

Over-the-counter medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain, inflammation, and fever associated with sunburn.

Hydration: Sunburn dehydrates the body by depleting the body's moisture levels. It's important to drink plenty of water to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration.

Avoid Further Sun Exposure: To aid in the healing process, it is essential to refrain from exposing the sunburned area to the sun until it has fully recovered.

Medical Intervention: In severe cases of sunburn, where blistering covers a large area or the symptoms worsen, it is crucial to seek medical attention. Healthcare professionals may prescribe topical corticosteroids, antibiotics to prevent infection or recommend specialised treatments to alleviate the symptoms and promote healing.

Preventing Sunburn

When it comes to sunburn prevention is undoubtedly the best cure. Taking proactive measures to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays can significantly reduce the risk of sunburn. Here are some essential preventive measures:

Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher generously to all exposed skin, and reapply every two hours.

Protective Clothing: Wearing lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats can provide an additional barrier against the sun's rays.

Seek Shade: During the hours of 10am to 4pm, when the sun is at its highest point, it is advisable to find shelter in the shade provided by umbrellas, trees, or canopies.

Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection.


It is imperative to recognize the importance of protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun. While the allure of basking in its rays may be tempting, the potential consequences of sunburn should not be underestimated. By prioritising sun protection measures and taking precautions, we can enjoy the benefits of the sun while minimising its potential harm.

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.