Sunburn and Sun Poisoning (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of sunburn?

Some of the immediate symptoms of sunburn after exposure include:

  • The skin becomes red, tender and hot.
  • Touching or rubbing the skin causes pain.
  • Because heat triggers fluid loss, a sunburn victim can also become dehydrated.
  • For several days after exposure, the skin may swell, blister, and peel. Some sufferers develop welts or rashes.
  • Skin peeling can occur several days later after a sun rash develops and is a sign of healing and rebuilding of skin.

More subtle exposures to the sun may not have any obvious immediate symptoms such as the ones listed above. Most sunburns are mild causing only skin redness, pain, and irritation due to involvement of the outer layer of skin (first degree burn). This type of burn may be painful to touch.

The skin is swollen, very red, and painful blisters may occur. This may indicate a more moderate sunburn (second degree burn). This type of sun rash may take longer to heal.

People who have chronic (long standing) exposure to sun can increase their changes of developing chronic skin damage from sun exposure (wrinkles, aging, age spots, freckles, skin cancer, scarring, etc.).

The symptoms of sunburn can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending mainly on the following:

  1. The skin type of the person affected. (more detail to follow later in this article)
  2. The time, duration, location, and altitude of exposure.
  3. Medications the person has been taking (sun-sensitizing drugs may increase a person's susceptibility to sunburn).
  4. Skin preparations (sunscreen) the person has been using.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/19/2012

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