Sunburn - symptoms and causes (2023)


Sunburn is inflamed, painful skin that is hot to the touch. It often appears within a few hours of a long stay in the sun.

You can alleviate sunburn with simple self-care measures, such as taking pain relievers and cooling your skin. But it can take days for the sunburn to go away.

Preventing year-round sunburn by using sunscreen or using other skin-protective habits is important for everyone. It's especially important when you're outside, even on cold or cloudy days.


Symptoms of sunburn can include:

  • Inflamed skin, which appears pink or red on white skin and may be less visible on brown or black skin
  • Hot or hot skin to the touch
  • Pain, tenderness and itching
  • Swelling
  • Small fluid-filled blisters that may burst
  • Headache, fever, nausea and fatigue, if the burn is severe
  • Eyes that look sore or sting

Any exposed part of the body - including the earlobes, scalp and lips - can burn. Even covered areas can burn if, for example, the clothing has a loose fabric that allows ultraviolet (UV) light to pass through. Eyes, which are extremely sensitive to the sunultravioletlight, it can also burn.

Sunburn symptoms usually appear hours after sun exposure.

(Video) Sunburn - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Within a few days, the body can begin to heal itself, shedding the top layer of damaged skin. A severe sunburn can take several days to heal. Any long-term changes in skin color will usually fade over time.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if:

  • Develop big bubbles
  • Developing blisters on the face, hands, or genitals
  • You experience severe swelling of the affected area
  • They show signs of infection, such as pus-filled blisters or streaks
  • You feel increasing pain, headache, confusion, nausea, fever, or chills
  • Worse despite home care
  • You have eye pain or vision changes

Seek medical help immediately if you get sunburned and experience:

  • Fever over 103 F (39.4 C) with vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Infection
  • Dehydration
  • Cold skin, dizziness or fainting

Request an appointment


Sunburn is caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.ultravioletthe light can be from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps and tanning beds.UVAIt is a wavelength of light that can penetrate deep layers of the skin and eventually cause damage to the skin.UVBit is the wavelength of light that penetrates the skin more superficially and causes burns.

Oultravioletlight damages skin cells. The immune system responds by increasing blood flow to the affected areas, causing skin inflammation (erythema) known as sunburn.

You can get sunburn on cold or cloudy days. Surfaces such as snow, sand and water can be reflectiveultravioletrays and burnt skin too.

Risk factors

Risk factors for sunburn include:

(Video) What Actually Happens When You Get a Sunburn

  • Having white skin and red hair
  • history of sunburn
  • Living or vacationing somewhere sunny, warm, or at a high altitude
  • work outdoors
  • Swimming or splashing water or baby oil on your skin, because wet skin burns more than dry skin
  • Mixing outdoor recreation and drinking alcohol
  • Regular exposure to unprotected skinultravioletlight from sunlight or artificial sources such as tanning beds
  • Taking a drug that increases the likelihood of sunburn (photosensitizing drug)


Intense and repeated exposure to the sun that results in sunburn increases the risk of further skin damage and certain diseases. These include premature aging of the skin (photoaging), precancerous skin and skin cancer.

Premature aging of your skin

Sun exposure and repeated sunburns accelerate the skin's aging process. Skin changes caused byultravioletlight is called photoaging. The results of photoaging include:

  • Weakening of connective tissue, which reduces skin firmness and elasticity
  • deep wrinkles
  • Dry and rough skin
  • Small red veins on cheeks, nose and ears
  • Freckles, mostly on the face and shoulders
  • Dark or colored spots (maculas) on the face, upper arms, arms, chest and upper back – also called solar lentigines (len-TIJ-ih-neez)

precancerous skin lesions

Precancerous skin lesions are rough, scaly patches in sun-damaged areas. They are often found on the sun-exposed parts of the head, face, neck and hands of people whose skin burns easily in the sun. These spots can develop into skin cancer. Also called actinic keratoses (ak-TIN-ik ker-uh-TOE-seez) and solar keratoses.

Skin cancer

Excessive exposure to the sun, even without sunburn, increases the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma. It can damage the DNA of skin cells. Sunburns in childhood and adolescence can increase the risk of melanoma later in life.

Skin cancer develops mainly on the parts of the body most exposed to sunlight, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands, legs and back.

Some types of skin cancer appear as a small growth or sore that bleeds easily, crusts over, heals, and then reopens. In melanoma, an existing mole may change or a new, suspicious-looking mole may grow.

Contact your doctor if you notice:

  • new skin growth
  • A disturbing change in your skin
  • A change in the appearance or texture of the mole
  • A wound that doesn't heal

eye damage

Too muchultravioletlight damages the cornea. Damage to the lens caused by the sun can lead to clouding of the lens (cataracts). Burnt eyes can be painful or stinging. Corneal sunburn is also called snow blindness. This type of damage can be caused by the sun, welding, broken sunlamps and mercury vapor lamps.


Use these methods to avoid sunburn, even on cold, cloudy, or foggy days. Sun exposure on cloudy days is reduced by about 20%. Be especially careful around water, snow, concrete and sand as they reflect the sun's rays. In the appendix,ultravioletthe light is more intense at high altitudes.

(Video) Sunburn: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention | Usapang Pangkalusugan

  • Avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm.The sun's rays are strongest during these hours, so try to plan outdoor activities for another time. If you can't do this, limit your time in the sun. Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Avoid sunbathing and solarium.Getting a basic tan does not reduce your risk of sunburn. If you use a self-tanning product to stay tan, also apply sunscreen before going outside.
  • Use sunscreen often and generously.Use a broad-spectrum waterproof lip balm and sunscreen withFPSof at least 30, even on cloudy days. Broad spectrum products offer protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.FPS30 blocks 97% ofUVBrays. No sunscreen can block 100% of the sunUVBrays.

    About 30 minutes before going outside, apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin. Use at least 2 tablespoons of sunscreen, or 1 ounce, to cover all areas of exposed skin except your eyelids. If you use a spray sunscreen, spray it on your hands and then rub it into your skin. This helps to avoid inhaling the product. Do not use spray product while smoking or near an open flame.

    If you use a product that contains physical blockers (titanium oxide, zinc oxide), apply it over every other product you use – except bug spray. Bug spray goes last. Physical blockers provide the most effective protection for sensitive skin.

    Reapply sunscreen every two hours — or more often if you swim or sweat. If you have makeup on and want to reapply sunscreen without retouching your entire face, one option is to useFPSpowder over makeup.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years. Check sunscreen labels for storage instructions and expiration dates. Throw away sunscreen if it is expired or older than three years.

  • Protect babies and children.Protect infants and children from sunburn with wide-brimmed hats and light clothing that covers arms and legs. Keep them cool, hydrated and out of direct sunlight. When this is not possible, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests applying sunscreen withFPSat least 15 on the face and back of the hands. American Academy of Dermatology andFDAI do not recommend sunscreen for children younger than 6 months.

    If sun-protective clothing and shade are not available, sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are the next best choice.

  • To hide.When you're outdoors, other items, such as umbrellas or wide-brimmed hats, can provide protection in addition to sunscreen. Tightly woven dark clothing provides the most protection. Consider using outdoor gear specifically designed for sun protection. Check the label for the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), which tells you how well the fabric blocks sunlight. The bigger it isUPFthe number, the better.
  • Wear sunglasses when outdoors.Choose sunglasses withUVAeuUVBprotection. check outultravioletclassification on the label when buying new glasses. Darker lenses don't always mean betterultravioletprotection. It also helps to wear sunglasses that fit your face or have frames that wrap around your face.
  • Take care with medications and cosmetics that cause hypersensitivity to the sun.Some common prescription and over-the-counter medications can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Examples include antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), and cholesterol-lowering medications. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about the side effects of the medicines you are taking. Cosmetics containing alpha hydroxy acids also increase sensitivity to the sun.

Mayo Clinic Registration: Illuminating SPF in Sunscreen

Ian Roth:You go to the pool or the beach and stop for sunscreen. But it's hard to know which is the best SPF when you have no idea what SPF really means.

Dawn Davis, MD, dermatologist, Mayo Clinic:Indicates the sun protection factor. It is simply a ratio of the number of minutes you can be outside with the product before you get minimal redness on your skin.

Ian Roth:And Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis says that preventing this painful redness is one of the biggest factors in preventing skin cancer. So how do sunscreen brands calculate SPF?

Dr Davis:So if you're outside in a certain location and you're trying out a sunscreen and it takes 10 minutes for your skin to develop redness without the product, but then you apply the product to another area of ​​skin and it takes 50 minutes for your skin to show up redness, this is a factor of SPF 50 by 10, which is equal to 5.

Ian Roth:dr. Davis recommends at least SPF 30, which theoretically means you can stay protected from UV rays 30 times longer than without sunscreen.

Za Mayo Clinic News Network, por sam Ian Roth.

(Video) What Really Causes Sunburns?
(Video) What is sunburn? | Cancer Research UK

Mayo Clinic employees

November 8, 2022


What causes sunburn and symptoms? ›

What are the symptoms of a sunburn?
  • Redness.
  • Swelling of the skin.
  • Pain.
  • Blisters.
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Weakness, confusion, or faintness.
  • Dry, itching, and peeling skin days after the burn.

What are 3 symptoms of sunburn? ›

Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. It usually causes the skin to become red, sore, warm, tender and occasionally itchy for about a week.

What medical condition causes sunburn? ›

It's the reason we tan and sunburn. It's why freckles, age spots, and skin cancers appear. Some people are born more sun sensitive than others. People who have an extreme sensitivity to sunlight are born with a rare disease known as xeroderma pigmentosum (XP).

What causes skin to sunburn easily? ›

Since the amount of melanin you can produce is determined by genetics, some people are more prone to burn, while others tan. Although any skin tone can burn, people with naturally darker skin are less likely to do so.

What energy causes sunburn? ›

Too much ultraviolet radiation (UV) from sunlight is dangerous. Nearly half of UV radiation is received between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest. Even on a cloudy day, you can be sunburned by UV radiation.

What causes sunburn inflammation? ›

Blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow and bring immune cells to the skin to help clean up the mess. All this causes the redness, swelling and inflammation we associate with a sunburn.”

What is the most common cause of sunburn? ›

Sunburn is caused by exposure to two types of ultraviolet rays from the sun: UVA rays and UVB rays. Both types of rays can burn your skin. Your chance of getting a sunburn increases depending on: Amount of time you spend in the sun.

What damage does sunburn cause? ›

The long-term effects of repeated bouts of sunburn include premature wrinkling and an increased risk of skin cancer, including melanoma (the most dangerous type of skin cancer). DNA in cells may be damaged, and, if not repaired by the body repeatedly over time, abnormal cells may develop, leading to cancer.

What are the symptoms of sun exposure? ›

Severe sunburn or sun poisoning can cause symptoms such as the following:
  • Skin redness and blistering.
  • Pain and tingling.
  • Swelling.
  • Headache.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dehydration.
Nov 25, 2022

What vitamin deficiency is sunburn? ›

Redness, blistering, and soreness are just three of the dreaded symptoms of sunburn.

What autoimmune disease is sun sickness? ›

Up to 60 percent of patients with the autoimmune disease have sensitivity to ultraviolet light, a condition called photosensitivity. It can result in skin inflammation or a flare-up of a wide range of lupus symptoms, such as joint pain and fatigue.

Why do I feel sick after sun exposure? ›

Symptoms of sun poisoning

It often mimics a flu bug or allergic reaction. As a result, you can find yourself shivering in bed with a headache, fever and chills — all wrapped up with the redness, pain and sensitivity of a sun-scorched skin patch. Sun poisoning can cause a range of symptoms (depending on the severity).

What type of people sunburn easily? ›

They develop from an increase in melanin as the skin's natural way to protect itself from the sun. People with freckles have skin that is more sensitive to light, and therefore more prone to sunburn. Moles or nevi are collections of pigment-producing cells or melanocytes in the skin.

What deficiency causes sun sensitivity? ›

If you do not get enough of some nutrients, your skin can become sensitive to sunlight. Pellagra, for example, is caused by a niacin deficiency and leads to photosensitivity. Other nutrients, particularly antioxidants and flavonoids, may help protect skin against sun damage in healthy people.

What vitamins cause sun sensitivity? ›

Vitamins and Herbs

Another pill that might put you at risk: niacin, a form of Vitamin B3 that's used to treat high cholesterol. It can cause skin reactions, Rech said, "so it could potentially cause [sun sensitivity]."

What is emotional sunburn? ›

I've heard people call it an “emotional sunburn.” The idea is that when you have a sunburn, even a light pat on the shoulder is jarringly painful. An emotional sunburn completely disrupts your ability to self-regulate. It short-circuits your ability to produce a typical emotional response.

Why am I more sensitive to sunburn? ›

Causes of sun allergy include immune system reactions to sunlight, certain medications and chemicals that make the skin more sensitive to the sun. It isn't clear why some people have a sun allergy and others don't. Inherited traits may play a role.

Is a sunburn a histamine reaction? ›

Histamine, the chemical involved in most allergic reactions, is released in the skin, along with other inflammatory substances. Blood flow is increased and the skin turns red and warm to the touch. This occurs during sun exposure, but rapidly fades. It then comes back 2 to 6 hours later, with pain, as a sunburn.

Why shouldn't you put ice on sunburn? ›

Avoid putting ice on a sunburn, as this can make matters worse by causing intense vasoconstriction, where blood vessels narrow sharply and cut off local blood supply to already damaged skin. Moisturising lotions can also help soothe by keeping moisture in, but avoid skin-numbing creams unless prescribed by your doctor.

Can sunburn trigger autoimmune? ›

Even modest amounts of ultraviolet (UV) exposure (i.e. sun exposure) and excessive heat can aggravate symptoms of autoimmune diseases and, in some cases, even trigger a full-blown flare.

Why does sunburn make you tired? ›

As well as causing your skin to turn pink and sore, sunburn may also lead to fatigue. That's because it raises the body's temperature and we generally feel sleepier when warm. Sunburn may also contribute to dehydration which, as I've explained, is a leading cause of low energy levels.

What is one fact about severe sunburn? ›

The danger goes far beyond any short-term pain, redness and discomfort, because after the sunburn fades, lasting damage remains. Sunburn accelerates skin aging and is a leading cause in the majority of cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Is a hot or cold shower better for sunburn? ›

There's a myth that a hot shower can help ease sunburn pain. Definitely don't do that! The opposite is true: When you get indoors, take a cool shower or bath to start easing the burning sensation. “Cool water decreases excess blood flow to the skin, which will help reduce inflammation and redness,” Dr.

What are the levels of sunburn? ›

Most sunburn is a first-degree burn that turns the skin pink or red. Prolonged sun exposure can cause blistering and a second-degree burn. Rarely, severe sunburn can cause a third-degree burn or scarring.

What happens to your body after a sunburn? ›

Some of the immune cells start cleaning up skin cells in self-destruct mode, while others release chemicals that further damage weakened cells. Their actions may also trigger a kind of allergic reaction that makes the skin itchy. Within several hours, blisters form where whole layers of keratinocytes have been killed.

How serious is my sunburn? ›

Moderate sunburns can leave skin red, swollen, and hot to the touch. This type of burn can take about a week to heal completely. Severe sunburns can cause painful blistering or very red skin and can take up to two weeks to fully recover.

What should you not put on sunburn? ›

  1. do not use petroleum jelly on sunburnt skin.
  2. do not put ice or ice packs on sunburnt skin.
  3. do not pop any blisters.
  4. do not scratch or try to remove peeling skin.
  5. do not wear tight-fitting clothes over sunburnt skin.

What are 5 harmful effects of excessive sun exposure? ›

Health Effects of UV Radiation
  • Skin cancer (melanoma and nonmelanoma)
  • Premature aging and other skin damage.
  • Cataracts and other eye damage.
  • Immune system suppression.
Dec 15, 2022

How long does sunburn last? ›

"Most sunburns will lose their associated pain and red tone in three to five days. But if you have a more severe, blistering burn, this could last up to 10 days," Dr. Klein said. Pain from a sunburn usually starts within two to six hours of sun overexposure and peaks at about 24 hours.

Does vitamin D stop sunburn? ›

Current research, however, shows that a high dose of vitamin D3, taken at the onset of sunburn can help diminish redness, cell damage, and inflammation.

Does vitamin C clear sunburn? ›

It generally helps boost wound healing. Given its effects on sunburn, it should be no surprise that topical vitamin C application can speed up overall wound healing. Healthy wound healing reduces your risk of inflammation, infection, and scarring.

Can taking vitamin D prevent sunburn? ›

In the article by Scott et al, a high dose of vitamin D attenuated the inflammatory response to UV radiation in a small group of normal volunteers. The best results were in those subjects who had the greatest increase in circulating 25hydroxyvitamin D.

What does lupus look like in the sun? ›

Many experience an increase in lupus symptoms after being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays, either from the sun or from artificial light. Photosensitive people may develop a skin rash, known as a butterfly rash, which appears over the nose and cheeks after sun exposure. Other rashes might look like hives.

Is sun sensitivity a symptom of lupus? ›

Photosensitivity is common in people with lupus: 40% to 70% of people with lupus will find that their disease is made worse by exposure to UV rays from sunlight or artificial light.

What does sun sickness look like? ›

Sun rash is a very itchy, widespread red rash. Small bumps, resembling hives, also can develop. Blisters can also be a sign of sun poisoning. Typically, blisters are small, white bumps filled with fluid, with swollen red skin surrounding the area.

How do you treat sun nausea? ›

Less severe cases of sun poisoning can be treated at home with cool compresses and showers, aloe vera gel and over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream or ointment. Be sure to keep yourself well hydrated. Most people need between half an ounce and one ounce of water per day for every pound they weigh.

Can sunburn cause body aches? ›

The symptoms of sun poisoning

severe redness and pain. fever and chills. dehydration. joint or muscle pain.

How long do sunburn symptoms last? ›

"Most sunburns will lose their associated pain and red tone in three to five days. But if you have a more severe, blistering burn, this could last up to 10 days," Dr. Klein said. Pain from a sunburn usually starts within two to six hours of sun overexposure and peaks at about 24 hours.

How do you treat sunburn symptoms? ›

How to treat sunburn
  1. Take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain. ...
  2. Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin. ...
  3. Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.
  4. Drink extra water.

How long does a sunburn last for? ›

Mild sunburn will continue for approximately 3 days. Moderate sunburn lasts for around 5 days and is often followed by peeling skin. Severe sunburn can last for more than a week, and the affected person may need to seek medical advice.

What is the first stage of sunburn? ›

A person with first degree sunburn may notice the following skin symptoms, usually about 4 hours after exposure to sunlight: redness, which is more apparent on light skin. a warm or tight feeling. swelling or blistering.

When does sunburn hurt the most? ›

Moderate sunburns are typically more painful. The skin will be red, swollen, and hot to the touch. Moderate sunburns typically take about a week to heal completely. The skin may then continue to peel for a few more days.

Does a hot shower help sunburn? ›

Does a hot shower help a sunburn? No, it is a myth that taking a hot shower can ease the pain of a sunburn. In fact, taking a hot shower will make sunburn hurt even worse. On the other hand, cold showers can help to soothe a sunburn.

Is it OK to swim with sunburn? ›

If you don't want to wear a waterproof bandage, you should avoid swimming until the burn is fully healed and no blistered or broken skin remains, says Dana Ellis, a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Newport Beach, Calif., who represented Canada in the pole vault at the 2004 Olympic Games.

What are the stages of sunburn? ›

Science of Skincare: The Stages of a Sunburn
  • Stage One: The Burn. You knew you were going to spend the day outside, or maybe you didn't. ...
  • Stage Two: Inflammation. After the actually burn occurs, the epidermis reacts to the damage by swelling. ...
  • Stage Three: Blister and Peel. ...
  • Stage Four: Never Again.
Mar 5, 2021

What degree is my sunburn? ›

Severity of Sunburn

Most sunburn is a first-degree burn that turns the skin pink or red. Prolonged sun exposure can cause blistering and a second-degree burn. Rarely, severe sunburn can cause a third-degree burn or scarring.


1. SUNBURN - How To Treat a Sunburn like a Dermatologist
2. How to Survive Sun Poisoning
(How to Survive)
(Ivanhoe Web)
4. How to treat a Sunburn? - Doctor Explains
5. Ask Dr. Nandi: Sun poisoning symptoms, treatment & prevention
(WXYZ-TV Detroit | Channel 7)
6. Can You Be Allergic to the Sun? – Dr.Berg on Sun Allergy and Niacin Deficiency
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)


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