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Sunlight can help our mental outlook and help us feel healthier. For people who have arthritis, the sun's warmth can help relieve some of their physical pain. Many people also think that a suntan makes a person look young and healthy. But sunlight can be harmful to the skin, causing immediate problems as well as problems that may develop years later.
A sunburn is skin damage from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Most sunburns cause mild pain and redness but affect only the outer layer of skin (first-degree burn). The red skin might hurt when you touch it. These sunburns are mild and can usually be treated at home.
Skin that is red and painful and that swells up and blisters may mean that deep skin layers and nerve endings have been damaged (second-degree burn). This type of sunburn is usually more painful and takes longer to heal.
Other problems that can be present along with sunburn include:
Long-term problems include:
Your skin type affects how easily you become sunburned. People with fair or freckled skin, blond or red hair, and blue eyes usually sunburn easily. Your age also affects how your skin reacts to the sun. The skin of children younger than 6 and adults older than 60 is more sensitive to sunlight.
You may get a more severe sunburn depending on:
Preventive measures and home treatment are usually all that is needed to prevent or treat a sunburn.
If you have any health risks that may increase the seriousness of sun exposure, you should avoid being in the sun from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Home treatment measures may provide some relief from a mild sunburn.
A sunburn can cause a mild fever and a headache. Lie down in a cool, quiet room to relieve the headache. A headache may be caused by dehydration, so drinking fluids may help. For more information, see the topic Dehydration.
There is little you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn—it is part of the healing process. Lotion may help relieve the itching.
Other home treatment measures, such as chamomile, may help relieve your sunburn symptoms.
|Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
|Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
Home treatment may help decrease pain, prevent infection, and help the skin heal.
Watch for a skin infection while your blister is healing. Signs of infection include:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
Most skin cancer can be prevented. Use the following tips to protect your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles.
The best way to prevent a sunburn is to avoid sun exposure.
Stay out of the midday sun (from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon), which is the strongest sunlight. Find shade if you need to be outdoors. You can also calculate how much ultraviolet (UV) exposure you are getting by using the shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you are means UV exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you are means the UV exposure is high.
Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing, such as:
You should start protecting your child from the sun when he or she is a baby. Because children spend a lot of time outdoors playing, they get most of their lifetime sun exposure in their first 18 years.
If you can't avoid being in the sun, use a sunscreen to help protect your skin while you are in the sun.
Be sure to read the information on the sunscreen label about the SPF factor listed on the label and how much protection it gives your skin. Follow the directions on the label for applying the sunscreen so it is most effective in protecting your skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Some sunscreens say they are water-resistant or waterproof and can protect for about 40 minutes in the sun if a person is doing a water activity.
The following tips about sunscreen will help you use it more effectively:
Do not use tanning booths to get a tan. Artificial tanning devices can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
For information on sun exposure and vitamin D, see Getting Enough Vitamin D.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
|U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SunWise Program|
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the SunWise program to teach children and caregivers about the UV index and safe sun exposure.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||February 8, 2013|
Last Revised: February 8, 2013
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