What is a Sunburn?

A sunburn is a type of burn on the skin that occurs after being exposed to UV rays from sunlight or sunlamps for too long. They are very common and usually heal within a few days. More severe burns may take a few weeks to resolve. Repeated sunburns can cause immediate problems such as vision changes and heat-related illness. There are also numerous potential long-term complications, including skin cancer, cataracts, cold sores, brown spots, and premature wrinkling. Any part of the body that is exposed to the sun is susceptible to burning.

As with any skin burn, there are varying degrees of severity in sunburns. The least damaging leave the skin red and warm and are only mildly uncomfortable. For more severe burns, it can be difficult to control the pain even with medication. The worst cases may experience damaged nerve endings and the patient may have to visit their doctor. Several factors dictate how severe a burn will become – time of day, proximity to reflective surfaces, time of year, the day’s UV index, and many more. Also, people who are fair skinned tend to burn more easily.

What are the Symptoms of Sunburn?

Sunburns are easily recognizable. In addition to skin that has turned red and warm, a person may experience various symptoms depending on the severity:

  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • Peeling
  • Rough skin
  • Itchiness
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Fever
  • Headache

How is Sunburn Treated?

While wearing sunscreen and minimizing sun exposure can usually prevent them, most sunburns are easily treated at home. Cool showers and ice packs can help alleviate some of the discomfort. Additionally, there are several lotions and moisturizers on the market specifically formulated to treat sunburns, most of which contain aloe vera or topical steroids. Increased fluid intake will help minimize the risk of dehydration that comes with

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 22, 2017