Anytime you are out in the sun, you are at risk of developing a sunburn. In fact, you can even get a bad sunburn on a cloudy day. People of any skin tone can develop sunburn; however, people with fair skin are more prone to the condition. As we approach the summer months, we will be spending more and more time outdoors in parks, at the beach and simply walking in your neighborhood. In any of these places, you could be at risk for developing serious sunburn that could have long-lasting consequences.
Our skin is a large organ. It is amazingly tough, but it can still be sensitive to injury. Sunburn is very prevalent but also preventable. Educating yourself on what sunburn is, how you can prevent it and how you can treat it will help ensure that you stay as safe as possible.
In this article, we are going to highlight 4 things you must know about sunburn. Anytime you have developed a sunburn or think you may be experiencing symptoms of heat stroke or other sun-related condition, it is important that you seek medical attention right away. Your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat the issue so that you can avoid long-term effects.
What is sunburn?
Sunburn is much more than a temporary stinging or discomfort. Sunburn can have lasting effects including premature aging and the formation of different types of skin cancer.
Anytime our skin is exposed to sunlight, UVA and UVB rays penetrate the outermost layers of our skin. Melanin, the pigment produced by melanocytes, helps to fight against these rays by darkening the skin. The more melanin you have genetically, the more likely you are to develop a tan. Those with less melanin in their skin will develop a sunburn.
Sunburn is the result of too much sun exposure that has caused damage to the cells. The result is red, hot, painful and sometimes even swollen skin. In later stages of a sunburn, you may experience peeling skin. This is the body’s attempt to shed the dead and damaged skin cells.
What are the risks of a sunburn?
Anyone can get sunburn, but those with fair skin and less melanin are more likely to develop a severe case. Sunburns are not just temporary discomfort. They have lasting effects which is why sunburn prevention is so important. People who repeatedly burn in the same areas can increase their risk for developing the dangerous skin cancer called melanoma. Studies have also shown that even just one blistering sunburn can double your chance of developing melanoma in your lifetime.
Sunburn is not just one and done. The negative effects of repeated burns can build up and seriously increase your chances of developing skin cancer or premature aging down the line.
How can you prevent sunburn?
The good news is that there are a number of things that you can do to help protect yourself from the sun and prevent sunburn. The first and most important step to do each day is to apply a sunscreen to all exposed skin, including that on your face, the tops of your ears, hands and tops of your feet. Sunscreen should be reapplied periodically to ensure that you are getting adequate protection.
In addition to the religious use of sunscreen, you should take steps to protect your skin in other ways, such as wearing protective clothing. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, long-sleeve shirts and pants and foot coverings can protect your skin from additional sun exposure. If you must be outdoors for any reason, try to reduce your sun exposure by seeking shade or going indoors periodically.
How can you treat sunburn?
Severe cases of sunburn can be extremely painful. Sunburned skin can become very hot, swollen and inflamed. There are a variety of treatment options to help soothe your symptoms and heal faster.
- Avoid additional sun exposure.
- Take cold or cool baths and showers.
- If you do get your skin wet, avoid scrubbing. Instead, gently pat dry.
- Apply products that contain aloe, milk, yogurt or oatmeal, as these can be very soothing to irritated skin.
- Avoid the use of harsh soaps and skin care products that can further irritate the skin.
- Avoid peeling the skin or popping blisters as this could result in an infection or even scarring.
- Monitor your body for additional symptoms such as fever, chills, cold sweats or severe headache, as these could be signs of heat stroke or extreme dehydration.
- Increase your hydration by upping your water intake and eating hydrating fruits and vegetables.
- If you are experiencing discomfort and swelling, you may take a pain reliever if it is recommended by your doctor.
When should you visit your dermatologist?
While most cases of sunburn can be treated effectively at home by following the tips above, there are some situations in which a severe sunburn should be treated by a dermatologist. You should schedule an emergency appointment with your dermatologist or doctor if you are experiencing blistering or other symptoms that may be associated with a heat stroke such as fever, chills, dizziness or nausea. If you have picked or peeled your sunburn and are noticing signs of infection, you should immediately seek medical attention.
While most people will experience sunburn at some point in their lives, it is something to be taken seriously. Multiple sunburns can have a compacting effect and can significantly increase your chances of developing skin cancer in the future. Follow the tips above to protect yourself from sunburn. If you have any questions about sunburn, contact our board-certified dermatologist at Buckhead Dermatology today.