Sunlight is essential for skin, general health and well being. Overexposure to UV rays of the sun, however, can damage skin causing wrinkles, sunburn, suntan, rashes, skin cancer, and other disorders. Condition is known as photo- damage or sun damage. Mostly occurs on parts such as head, neck, face, hands, forearms, and lower leg regions.
Although not usually fatal, it can be disabling and cause a lot of discomfort. Mostly affects outer layer of the skin - first degree burn. In extreme cases may result in second degree burns and blistering. Sunburn can not cause third degree burns or scarring.
1. Overexposure to sun’s rays or tanning bed.2. Temperature of the skin rises drastically.3. Skins becomes red and painful.4. Skin may peel, swell or blister if burn is severe.5. Symptoms go away within a few days, though damage to skin is permanent and can lead to skin cancer on the long run.
Suntan results from injury to the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis). Tanned color results from body’s defense mechanism against UV rays – accelerated production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment produced by melanocytes which gives skin its normal complexion and help protect against harmful UV radiation. Suntan contributes to early aging of skin and skin cancer.
Travel to regions close to the equator and places at high altitudes. Light-skinned and fair- haired individuals. Prior recent sun exposure and prior skin injury. Sun rays are strongest between 11 am and 4 pm.
Initially, skin turns red about 2-6 hours after exposure and feels irritated. Peak effects are noted at 12-24 hours. Mild Sunburn: Results in minor skin redness and irritation. Sufficient exposure can become very painful. More severe cases: Sun Poisoning Complicated by skin burning and blistering, massive fluid loss, electrolyte disturbance, and infection. Left untreated: shock and even death.
Common Symptoms: Nausea/vomiting Flulike symptoms Blistering Skin loss: 4-7 days after exposure
If sunburn is severe enough, one should see a doctor. The following conditions call for emergency medical help: Severe pain Severe blistering Fever and chills Headache and confusion Nausea or vomiting Fainting
1. Get out of the sun and get indoors!2. Look for blisters: Blistering means skin is completely damaged and complications are likely. If area with blisters is bigger than one entire arm or abdomen, seek medical care immediately.3. Take a cool shower or bath to soothe the pain.4. Apply aloe vera or another moisturizing lotion.5. Use cold compresses with water and milk.
6. Use Calamine lotion: Zinc oxide with ferric oxide. Anti-itching agent. Mild-antiseptic: prevents infections caused by scratching affected areas. Astringent – dries oozing blisters.7. Leave blisters intact. If they burst on their own, apply antibacterial ointment (Fucidin) on open areas.8. OTC pain relievers can be used.9. Don’t use petroleum jelly, butter or other home remedies – prevent or delay healing.10. While burn is healing, wear loose natural clothing like silk or light cottons.
Burns can cause swellings. Burns of the face and neck can sometimes swell enough to cause difficulty breathing – emergency help needed. Burns completely circling hands or feet may cause severe swelling such that blood flow is restricted. If swollen hands and feet become numb, tingly or blue. seek emergency help.
There are two options for treatment: Self-care at home Medical treatment
Immediate self-care is aimed at stopping the UV radiation: Get out of the sun Cover exposed skin Get out of tanning bed Relief of discomfort: NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen): useful when started early. Cool compresses with milk and water. Cool (not ice cold) baths may help.
Relief of discomfort: Compresses with Burow’s solution (aluminum acetate): Has astringent and antibacterial properties. Dissolve 1 packet in 1 pint of water. Soak gauze or a soft clean cloth in it. Apply cloth to the sunburned area for 15-20 minutes. Change or refresh the cloth and solution every 2-3 hours. Aloe-based lotions: Keep skin healthy and moist Help healing process Soothes dryness and cools inflammation. Cold sugarless tea: Tannins in tea help healing process. Applied on eyelids.
General Precautions: Avoid bath salts, oils, and perfumes – sensitization. Avoid scrubbing the skin or shaving it, Use soft towels to gently dry yourself. Use a light, fragrance-free skin moisturizer. Avoid lotions that contain topical anesthetic medications - sensitization. Drink lots of fluids to keep hydrated.
If case is mild and not life threatening doctor may suggest continuing of self-care measures. If case is severe enough (2nd degree): Oral steroid therapy may be prescribed for several days. Topical steroids show minimal to no benefit. In case of blistering, steroids may be withheld to avoid an increased risk of infection. May be referred to hospital’s burn unit. If dehydrated or suffering from heat stress: IV fluids, along with hospital admission.
Best prevention measure is to avoid the sun. More practical strategies include wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Zinc applied topically acts as a physical blocker of UV light. Vitamin C lotion applied topically reduces chances and severity of burns.
Vitamin E: Topical & Oral Free radical scavenger – antioxidant. Soothe skin and help prevent sunburn, when applied immediately after exposure. Most effective if applied before 8 hours have elapsed after exposure. Safe to take oral vitamin E before going outside.
While not a first aid measure, it is a useful pharmacy practice. Sunscreen should be applied in generous amounts in layers before exposure. It should be reapplied after exposure. People seldom apply enough sunscreen or rarely reapply it. Sweating and swimming degrade its effectiveness. Sunscreens are not waterproof.
Sunscreens should always be applied before any other skin products or makeup. Products containing PABA should be avoided in children less than 6 months – possible skin irritation. SPF (sun protection factor) is a ratio of the time it takes to produce a skin reaction on protected and unprotected skin. The higher the SPF, the higher the protection offered.
Although not always true in practice - a 30 SPF sunscreen would in theory allow 30 times longer exposure time than with no sunscreen. Sunscreens sold for kids can be used by adults and vice versa. The FDA is banning what it calls misleading labeling on sunscreens. The use of the words sunblock, waterproof, and all day protection will no longer be used.
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