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First Aid Guide: Sunburn

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Summertime is all about having fun in the sun but spending too much time soaking up those rays can lead to a painful consequence: Sunburn (SB). Whether you're lounging at the beach, playing outdoor sports, or simply enjoying a picnic in the park, always protect your skin from the sun's direct rays. But if you do end up with a SB, don't worry! With a few simple first-aid tips, you can soothe your skin and get back to enjoying the summer in no time. Read ahead to know about first aid for Sunburn.




What is Sunburn?

Sunburn refers to a kind of skin damage. It takes place on occasions where the human skin is exposed to a lot of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The UV rays can penetrate the outer layer of your skin and damage the DNA in your skin cells, leading to inflammation and redness. SB can range from mild to severe and may cause symptoms such as pain, itching, peeling, and blisters. Repeated SB can increase the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing of the skin.

What are the symptoms of Sunburn?

Here is a more detailed explanation of each symptom of Sunburn.

  • Redness and inflammation of the skin: Sunburn causes the skin to become red and inflamed due to the body's immune response to the damaged skin cells. This redness may appear within a few hours of sun exposure and can last for several days.

  • Itching or tingling sensation: Some people may experience an itchy or tingling sensation in the sunburned area. This is due to the release of histamines, which are chemicals that cause an inflammatory response in the body.

  • Blistering or peeling of the skin: Severe SB may cause the skin to blister or peel. 

  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area: SB can cause pain and tenderness in the affected area due to inflammation and damage to the skin cells. This pain may be worse when the skin is touched or exposed to heat.

  • Swelling in the affected area: Sunburn can cause swelling in the affected area due to inflammation and fluid buildup in the skin.

  • Headache, fever, and fatigue: Some people may experience headaches, migraine attacks, fever, and fatigue. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition and require medical attention.

  • Dehydration and dizziness: Sunburn can cause dehydration, which may lead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. It's important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and help your body heal from SB.

Expert recommendation: Symptoms may vary based on the severity of the SB and the individual's skin type. In some cases, symptoms may not appear until several hours after sun exposure. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to take immediate action to prevent further damage to your skin.

Can Sunburn cause skin cancer?

Sunburn and skin cancer are closely linked, and repeated SB can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. The ultraviolet rays cause damage to the DNA in skin cells. Too much exposure, for a lengthy time, can cause skin cancer. It's also crucial to have regular skin checks and to report any changes in your skin to your healthcare provider.

How much time does a Sunburn take to heal?

Mild Sunburns affect only the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, and often heal within a few days. However, severe SB that extend deeper into the skin layers, such as the dermis, can take several weeks to heal.

Quick action: First aid for Sunburn

It is important to provide immediate first aid to SB to relieve the symptoms and prevent further damage to the skin. Here are some tips for first aid for Sunburns.

  1. Stay away from the sun. Avoid further exposure to the sun until your SB has healed completely. Stay in the shade, during the peak hours of sun exposure i.e. 10 a.m - 4 p.m.

  2. Use protection. Apply sunscreen. Wear full-sleeve clothing. Cotton and linen are soft breathable fabrics and are best for summer. Wear hats and brims to keep yourself out of the direct rays.

  3. Cool the skin. Cool the affected area immediately. Take a cold shower or apply cold water to the Sunburnt area, whichever suits you. This helps to reduce inflammation and pain. Do not use ice directly on the skin, as it may cause further damage. Avoid using harsh soaps or scrubs on Sunburned skin, as they can further irritate and dry out the skin.

  4. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. Sunburn can cause dehydration, which can lead to other health problems.

  5. Moisturise the affected skin. Apply aloe vera or a moisturising lotion to the affected area. This helps to soothe the skin and prevent dryness and peeling. Do not use petroleum jelly or oil-based products, as they may trap heat and make the SB worse.

  6. Avoid tight clothing. Wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid further irritation to the sunburned skin.

  7. Be cautious around reflective surfaces: All surfaces that reflect sunlight can cause SB, specially curved reflective surfaces as they concentrate the rays further.

  8. Check your medications. Certain medications, such as antibiotics, birth control pills, and some acne treatments, can sensitise your skin. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure.

  9. Seek medical attention. Seek medical attention if you have severe SB, blistering, or fever. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition.

When to seek medical help for Sunburns?

While mild SB can usually be treated at home, severe SB may require medical attention. Here are some signs that indicate you should seek medical attention for Sunburn.

  • If you are experiencing severe pain from your SB, and it does not improve with over-the-counter pain medication, it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

  • Severe SB can cause large blisters or extensive blistering, which may require medical treatment to prevent infection and promote healing.

  • If you experience chills in addition to fever, it may indicate that your SB is severe and requires medical attention.

  • Nausea, vomiting, or dizziness could be a sign that your SB is serious and requires medical attention.

  • If your Sunburned skin shows signs of infection, (redness, swelling, warmth, or pus) it is important to seek medical attention to prevent further complications. If your SB covers a significant area of your body, seeking medical attention can ensure proper treatment and care.

First aid for Sunburns is essential to alleviate the pain and discomfort, and to promote healing. Mild SB can be treated at home using simple remedies like cool compresses, aloe vera gel, and over-the-counter pain medications. However, if you experience severe symptoms like fever, blisters, or signs of infection, it's crucial to seek medical attention. Remember, the best way to treat SB is to prevent them by protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions on first aid for Sunburns.


What should I do if I have a Sunburn?

If you have a SB, the first thing you should do is get out of the sun and into a cool, shaded area. Apply cool compresses or take a cool bath to soothe the skin. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and consult a physician if you experience severe symptoms.

How can I prevent Sunburn in the future?

To prevent Sunburn in the future, make sure to wear protective clothing, and use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Avoid the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and try to stay indoors as much as possible.

What are some home remedies for Sunburn relief?

Cool compresses, aloe vera gel, over-the-counter pain medication, and drinking plenty of water are some effective home remedies for Sunburn relief.

When should I seek medical attention for Sunburn?

If you experience severe symptoms like blisters, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or signs of infection, or if your Sunburn covers a large area of your body, seek medical attention.

Can Sunburn lead to skin cancer?

Yes, repeated SB can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

How can I prevent Sunburns?

You can prevent Sunburns by wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen, and avoiding prolonged sun exposure during peak hours.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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