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Sunburn (part I)

Is reddening of the skin occurring after exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet light. It happens when the amount of sun exposure exceeds the ability of the body to protect the skin. The body protects the skin through melanin pigment which acts like an umbrella that covers the skin. Sunburn is a burn which is most commonly a first degree burn part I, II, more severe or deep sunburns can lead to second degree burns with the formation of blisters and rarely third degree burns part I, II. Very light skinned people can have sunburns in less than 15 minutes of exposure to midday sun while dark skinned people may tolerate the same exposure for hours.


Symptoms of sunburn typically don’t develop until about 2-6 hours after sun exposure, while in children it happens as little as 15-30 minutes after being exposed to the sun without adequate protection.

  1. Pain, red, tender skin, the pain is greatest between 6 and 48 hours after sun exposure.
  2. Blistering can occur hours to days later.
  3. Fever, chills and rash may occur.
  4. Peeling of the skin usually follows several days later.

The symptoms of sunburn are usually temporary while the damage to the skin is often irreversible and may have serious long term effects including skin cancer.

Treatment of sunburns:

  1. Cool baths and showers, or you can place cool wet compresses.
  2. Soothing lotions may be applied if there is no blistering.
  3. If blisters are present don’t break them because that can increase the risk of them getting infected, cover them with a dry bandage.
  4. Pain reducers like Tylenol or Motrin.
  5. If it’s a child, extra fluid might be needed to avoid dehydration.
  6. Oral antihistamine may be needed when the sunburned area begins to peel and become itchy.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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