You should never get sunburned! It is not healthy. It leads to premature aging, wrinkling of the skin and skin cancer.

Sunburn is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. This can be from the sun, sun lamps, or even from some workplace light sources such as welding arcs. Sunburn results in red, swollen, painful, and sometimes blistered skin. Chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting can occur if the sunburn is extensive and severe.

The risk for sunburn is increased for:

  • Persons with fair skin, blue eyes, and red or blond hair.
  • Persons taking some medications including sulfa medications, tetracyclines, some diuretics and even Benadryl (an over-the-counter antihistamine).
  • Persons exposed to industrial UV light sources. Persons exposed to excessive outdoor sunlight.

Sunburn can be prevented by using the following measures:

  • Avoid the sun’s rays during the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or more when exposed to the sun. The lighter your skin the higher the SPF number should be. To be effective, sunscreen should be reapplied every hour and after swimming. Make-up for women is now available with sun screen protection.
  • Wear a hat when in the sun.
  • Wear muted colors such as tan. Brilliant colors and white reflect the sun onto the face. Clothing is now available with sunscreen protection.

Self-Care Tips

  • Cool the affected area with clean towels, cloths or gauze dipped in cool water or take a cool bath or shower.
  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium to relieve pain, headache, and to reduce fever. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger, unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]
  • Use an over-the-counter topical steroid cream such as Cortaid if the pain persists.
  • Rest in a comfortable position, in a cool, quiet room.
  • Drink plenty of water to replace fluid loss.
  • Avoid using local anesthetic creams or sprays (such as benzocaine or Lidocaine) or use sparingly because they cause allergic reactions in some persons.

Questions to Ask

Are there any of these signs of dehydration?

  • Confusion
  • Very little or no urine output
  • Sunken eyes
  • Skin that is wrinkled or sags
  • Extreme dryness in the mouth

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Do you have a fever of 102¡F or higher or have severe pain or blistering with the sunburn?

Yes: See Doctor


Provide Self-Care

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021