Sunburns: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Treatment and Prevention

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 30, 2013

Skin damage due to exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays is called sun burn. It is characterized by red colour of skin accompanied with mild pain that feels warm when touched. Sun- burnt skin starts peeling after sometime which is a normal healing process. After the sun damaged skin gets “peeled” naturally, temporary change in skin is seen, which returns to normal after some days depending on extent of damage.



Symptoms of sun burn are visible only after a few hours from sun exposure but the severity of damage is known only after 24 hours.

  • Inflamed or red colour of skin.
  • Sun burnt skin feels warm when touched.
  • Mild or severe pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters- small to water-filled blisters.
  • Chills, fever, nausea and tiredness.



Sun burns are caused due to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Body’s natural mechanism of protecting itself from sun damage is by producing Melanin. Melanin is a pigment which is responsible for our skin colour. Tanning happens as a natural protective measure of the skin due to production of excess melanin. Sun burn damage goes beneath the skin resulting in pain. Fair skinned people are at more risk of sun burns due to lower presence of melanin.


Risk factors

  • Fair- skinned or light- complexion people are more prone to sun damage due to lower presence of melanin.
  • People staying in high altitudes where sun’s rays are the strongest are at a greater risk than people in the plains.



Sun burn treatment can only help reduce pain, swelling and discomfort.

  • Apply a cool compress on sun burnt areas, cool showers also helps.
  • Apply soothing lotions such as aloe vera gel on affected parts.
  • Medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help relieve the pain.



Avoid sun exposure:
Sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 in the morning to 4 in the evening. Sun exposure for moderate time and at “safe” hours is appropriate.


Protective clothing and gears: Wear clothing that covers your extremities and wear a wide-brimmed hat along with sunglasses which block UV rays.


Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 before stepping outdoors and follow the product label instructions for reapplication.



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