Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment – Healingpoint Alive

Sunburn is a condition that occurs when your skin is overexposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV radiation from the sun can damage the outer layer of your skin, causing redness, pain, and inflammation. The skin may also get hot, swollen, and tender. Sunburn typically occurs within a few hours of sun exposure, but its full effects may not be visible until a few days later. The severity of sunburn can vary depending on factors such as the amount of UV exposure, skin type, and age. Severe sunburn can lead to blistering, peeling, and even skin cancer over time. Therefore, it is essential to protect your skin from harmful sun exposure by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding the midday sun when possible.


There are two main types of sunburn:

1. First-Degree Sunburn: This is the mildest form of sunburn that affects only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). Symptoms of first-degree sunburn include mild redness, pain, and peeling. This type of sunburn usually heals within 3-5 days.

2. Second-Degree Sunburn: This is a more severe form of sunburn that affects the deeper layers of the skin (dermis). Symptoms of second-degree sunburn include intense redness, blistering, and severe pain. This type of sunburn can take up to two weeks to heal, and in some cases, it may require medical attention.

Signs and symptoms

Sunburn occurs when the skin is exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, and the symptoms can vary in severity depending on the degree of the burn. Here are some common symptoms of sunburn:

1. Redness: The skin will turn pink or red after being exposed to the sun for a prolonged period.

2. Pain: The affected skin may be tender or painful to the touch.

3. Swelling: Sunburn can cause swelling in the affected areas.

4. Blisters: In severe cases, sunburn can cause blisters to form on the skin.

5. Peeling: The skin may start to peel a few days after the sun exposure.

6. Itching: Sunburn can cause the skin to become itchy or sensitive.

7. Headache: Sometimes, a headache can accompany severe sunburn.

These symptoms may not appear immediately but can develop within a few hours, and it often takes about 24 to 72 hours for sunburn symptoms to peak. In severe cases, sunburn can also cause dehydration, fever, and chills.

Causes and Risk Factors

The primary risk factor for sunburn is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Other factors that can increase the risk of sunburn include:

1. Skin type: People with fair skin, blonde or red hair, and blue or green eyes are at higher risk of sunburn due to their lower levels of melanin, the skin pigment that provides some protection against UV radiation.

2. Time of day: UV radiation is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so spending time outdoors during these hours can increase the risk of sunburn.

3. Geographic location: The closer you are to the equator, the stronger the UV radiation, so people living in sunny climates are at higher risk of sunburn.

4. Altitude: The higher the altitude, the stronger the UV radiation, so people who live or travel to high altitudes are at higher risk of sunburn.

5. Medications: Certain medications, such as tetracyclines and some diuretics, can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and increase the risk of sunburn.

6. Skin care products: Some skin care products, such as those containing alpha-hydroxy acids or retinoids, can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and increase the risk of sunburn.

7. History of sunburn: If you have had a previous sunburn, you are at higher risk of future sunburns and skin damage.

Remember to always protect your skin by wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and staying in shaded areas during the hottest parts of the day.


The treatment of sunburn typically involves several steps:

1. Cool the skin: Apply cold compresses or take a cool bath or shower to help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

2. Moisturize: Use a gentle, non-irritating moisturizer to hydrate the skin and prevent it from becoming dry and peeling.

3. Take OTC pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help to reduce pain and inflammation associated with sunburn.

4. Drink plenty of fluids: Sunburn can cause dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids to stay hydrated.

5. Avoid further exposure to the sun: Protect the sunburned skin from further exposure to the sun until it has healed by wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen.

In cases of severe sunburn, it is recommended to seek medical attention to ensure proper treatment and to prevent complications such as infection or sun poisoning.


When suffering from sunburn, it’s important to provide your body with foods that can help soothe your skin and promote healing. Here are some dietary suggestions for sunburn relief:

1) Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to help your skin stay hydrated and prevent dehydration caused by sunburn.

2) Eat foods high in antioxidants: Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Foods such as berries, leafy greens, and nuts are good sources of antioxidants.

3) Consuming fatty fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation caused by sunburn.

4) Incorporating dietary sources of Vitamin E and C: Vitamin E and C are important nutrients for skin health and can help reduce inflammation. Foods such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and avocados are good sources.

5) Avoiding spicy or acidic foods: These foods can irritate sunburned skin and delay healing.

It’s important to note that while a healthy diet can support healing, it’s still important to protect your skin from further damage by wearing protective clothing, avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, and using sunscreen.


The treatment of sunburn involves relieving the symptoms and promoting healing. Here are some effective treatments for sunburn:

1. Cool baths or showers: Cool water can help soothe the sunburned skin and decrease inflammation.

2. Moisturizers: Apply a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe and cool the skin.

3. Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with sunburn.

4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration, which can be a side effect of sunburn.

5. Avoid further sun exposure: Protect your skin from further sun damage by wearing protective clothing, staying in the shade, and using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

6. Seek medical attention: If your sunburn is severe, with blisters, or covers a large area of your body, seek medical attention. The doctor may prescribe topical creams or ointments to alleviate symptoms, or prescribe pain medication or advise hospitalization to monitor any complications.


Sunburn is a result of skin damage caused by exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The severity of sunburn can vary depending on the intensity of the UV rays and the amount of time spent in the sun. Some of the complications of sunburn are:

1. Pain and discomfort: Sunburn can cause great pain and discomfort due to redness, blistering, and peeling of the skin.

2. Dehydration: Sunburn can make the skin lose moisture and lead to dehydration, which can cause fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.

3. Sun poisoning: Sunburn can sometimes lead to a condition known as “sun poisoning,” which results in symptoms like fever, chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

4. Premature aging: Exposure to UV rays from the sun can damage the skin’s collagen fibers, which can cause premature aging, wrinkles, and dark spots.

5. Skin cancer: Prolonged exposure to UV rays can increase the risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Therefore, it’s important to take precautions while spending time outdoors and protect your skin from direct sun exposure by wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen.


There are several ways to prevent sunburn:

1. Wear protective clothing: Covering up with long sleeves, pants, a hat, and sunglasses can shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

2. Use sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

3. Seek shade: Limit your exposure to the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Seek shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter.

4. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin and body healthy.

5. Take breaks indoors: If you spend a lot of time outside, take frequent breaks indoors to give your skin a rest from the sun.

6. Be mindful of medications: Some medications, like antibiotics and certain skincare products, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to read the labels and take extra precautions when necessary.

7. Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.

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