Sunburns are caused by long term or excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Ultraviolet rays consist of two types, the first being UVA and the second UVB. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and can cause melanoma in susceptible people, while UVB rays which do not penetrate as deeply as UVA ray, can cause sunburns and wrinkling to the skin. However a great portion of the UVB rays are absorbed by sunscreen protection, but only 50% of the more dangerous UVA rays are absorbed. UV rays can have both short and long term  damage to the skin and body, one of the most immediate risks is sunburns, of which there are two levels, the first being the erythema and the second a burn. While excessive exposure to the sun (even with sunscreens) can cause serious health problems such as cancer, and that of the most serious types of skin cancer. Fair-skinned people are more prone to sunburns, due to the fact that their skin produces only small amounts of melanin which is the protective pigment of the skin against UV rays. Even more dark skinned people are prone to sunburns and skin cancer caused by UV rays. Excessive and repeated sun exposure can cause premature aging of the skin.

What are the symptoms associated with sunburns?

Excessive sun exposure can cause sunburns, especially in fair-skinned individuals. Erythema is manifested by:

  • Red and warm skin.
  • Burning sensations.
  • Slight perception of pain in the reddened areas.

The next degree is that of the burn that often strikes those who are over exposed to the sun, even if they have a rash. The symptoms are similar to those of erythema, but more intense:

  • Reddish-purple skin.
  • Slight swelling in the reddened skin.
  • Pain in the affected areas.
  • Sometimes high fevers and chills of cold.
  • The burned areas are filled with soft bubbles and full of clear liquid.

What to do in case of sunburns

In the event of a sunburn or erythema, it is advisable to take a shower with fresh water to clean the skin and then apply a product against sunburns. If after half a day, there are no seen improvements, or you feel pain it is advisable to use a more specific cream or medication, often with corticosteroids, adhering scrupulously to the instructions of the package insert.

In case of sunburns and that of bubbles which are popped or broke, you should not remove the epidermis but was the affected area with a mild detergent fluid based colloidal oatmeal (has soothing effects) and dry it off with a soft cotton towel. You should then apply a steroid based antibiotic cream twice per day.

What not to do in case of sunburns

If you experience a sunburn, it is advisable to avoid any exposure to the sun (even under an umbrella) for a couple of days, until the skin is back to normal. If you get a sunburn, never break the bubbles, as to avoid infecting the underlying skin that is very delicate. You can get exposure to the sun, with adequate protecting, only when the bubbles have disappeared and are no longer present with the epidermis that covered them.


Disclaimer: The information in this article does not in any way replace the intervention or signs associated with this type of emergency, but rather only provides simple tips as how to keep the situation under control while waiting for a medical rescue team to arrive.