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What is sunburn

Sunburn is a visible skin reaction to excessive ultraviolet radiation which is invisible and is contained in the sunlight. The damage to skin may be visible or invisible and it leads to aging and skin cancer. Excessive exposure to sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer in most cases. Sunburns occurs commonly while visiting a beach or just being out exposed to sunlight. In some cases sunburns can disable a person a cause significant discomfort. Children are especially prone to sunburns since they spend a lot of time playing outside. Persons who have freckles, moles and fair skin are usually a lot more likely to develop skin cancer.

The ultraviolet radiation is most excessive in the summer when the sun is positioned directly overhead. Of all three types of ultraviolet rays only the first two reach the earth. The rays that cause the damage to human skin belong in the UV-B group. It has only recently been discovered that even UV-A rays can also cause certain damage to the skin.


Sunburns are usually characterized by red, painful areas on the skin. In severe cases even blisters and swelling may occur. Some other symptoms of sunburns include weakness, shock, chills and fever. The symptoms usually kick in about an hour after being exposed to the radiation and they reach the peak the day after. Itching and peeling of the skin is common after several days. Mild cases only result in irritated and red skin, while excessive exposure can cause poor circulation, shock, severe pain and in some cases it can even be fatal. Some rare severe cases of sunburns have also caused massive dehydration, skin infections and a disrupted electrolyte balance. Persons who go into shock after suffering a sunburn should seek immediate medical attention because sever weakness fainting and low blood usually occurs.

Treating and preventing sunburn

The intensity of the sun is affected by various parameters which include altitude, latitude, season, time of day and possible reflections. In order to be protected from the ultraviolet radiation one should wear hats, long sleeved clothes and perhaps use an umbrella. One can also purchase a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher and avoid any outdoor activities that take place during the peak hours of ultraviolet radiation exposure. If a person indulges in swimming, the sunscreen must be reapplied even if the manufacturer claims that it is water resistant. Certain types of clothes that are tightly woven or knitted and have a darker color can also be protective. Children should especially use sunscreen half an hour before going out to play.

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