Sunburns are skin conditions caused due to prolonged exposure to the harmful UV rays. The skin has a protective pigment layer of melanin that protects the skin from UV radiations of the sun. This layer is unable to protect the skin when the skin is exposed to sunshine for long periods of time, thereby causing sunburns marked by reddening of skin, blisters, rashes, and other skin reactions.People with fairer skin are more prone to developing sunburns than those with darker skin.
The symptoms of sunburn are generally visible after 1 hour of exposure to sun. A minor sunburn is accompanied by skin redness, inflammation, irritation, and tender to touch. Severe sunburns are characterized by blister formation, weakness, skin peeling, itching, skin rash, dizziness, nausea, fluid-filled blistering, chills, pain, and fever.Severe sunburns increase the risk to development of varied skin conditions like wrinkling, skin dryness, discoloration, formation of pigmented spots, and even skin cancer.
The duration of sunburn prevalence is dependent on varied factors such as the severity of the burn, the skin complexion, and the treatment undertaken, etc.Sunburn severity in turn is dependent on the exposure time to UV rays and skin sensitivity.
There is no cure for sunburns, whether they are severe or mild. The skin typically heals on its own over a period of time. Mild sunburns resolve in a few days. As severe painful sunburn poses increased health risks, it is necessary to treat them immediately. Severely damaged skin may take many days and even weeks for a full recovery. Treatment is focused on restoring skin color and alleviating the discomfort and associated symptoms as well as hastening the process of recovery.
How long does sunburn and its symptoms last?
The duration of sunburn and its associated symptoms are usually dependent on the severity of the condition, as discussed below.
- Duration of mild sunburns: Patients may suffer from mild pain and skin redness. The effects of the sunburn may be felt and become visible many hours after contact with the sun. Minor sunburns usually last for 3 to 5 days. The skin in and around the affected area may peel during this recovery period. Patients can continue to work or attend school.
- Duration of moderate sunburns: Patients with moderate sunburns may need to take OTC painkillers to alleviate the pain. As compared to mild sunburns, moderate ones last for a few days longer. Lukewarm baths and use of cool compresses can help get relief.Skin irritation can be soothed by application of products containing aloe vera and vitamin E. Some patients may be able to attend school or do their jobs despite the discomfort, while others may not. Thus, moderate sunburns cause more than just physical skin damage.
- Duration of severe sunburns: These are very incapacitating and often require medical treatment by a doctor. Patients with extreme sunburns may even need to be hospitalized. Dehydration, fever, and blistering are just some of the associated symptoms that need to be treated in a hospital. Severe sunburns last for 2 to 3 weeks. Patients, especially those who are hospitalized, often miss work and school.
The physical symptoms of sunburns usually disappear in 2 days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the condition. However, its effects tend to last for a lifetime.Excessive sun exposure can result in premature aging, wrinkling, age spots, and other changes that are permanent. The most dangerous outcome is skin cancer. It is therefore advisable to take steps to prevent sunburns, such as use of sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and other sun protective measures before stepping out for work or pleasure. It is important to follow the sun protection guidelines even when the day is cloudy or hazy.
Home remedies for sunburns
Medical treatment for sunburns include oral steroids for alleviation of pain and inflammation. Severe burns may require dressings and special burn creams.Patients with dehydration need to drink lots of water and juices, rest in cool rooms, and avoid going out till the sunburn heals fully.
Mild sunburns can be treated with below listed home remedies:
- Soaking in an oatmeal bath or a cooling bath for about 30 minutes can alleviate the burning sensations and pain. Do not add body wash, soap, ice cubes, oils, or bath salts in the bath. Do not scrub as it can worsen the damage to the skin. Tap dry the skin after bath and apply sunburn cream on the affected areas.
- Soak a washcloth or a cotton ball in ice-cold whole milk and place it on the sunburn for about 20 minutes. It will soothe the skin, ease itchiness and pain, and enhance skin texture.
- Dip a tea bag in cold water and place on sunburn for 15 minutes. You may also make strong tea, cool and then refrigerate it, and later soak a washcloth in it and place over the sunburn.
- Other home remedies that can soothe and heal sunburns include tomato, potato, or cucumber slices; creams with vitamins A, E, and C; cold compresses; tomato and buttermilk paste; apple cider vinegar; aloe vera gel or juice; lavender or chamomile essential oils; honey; and witch hazel.
Filed in: Health Questions