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SUNBURN

Definition:

Inflammation of the skin that follows overexposure to the sun.

Signs & Symptons

  • Red, swollen, painful and sometimes blistered skin.
  • Occasionally fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting (in severe burns).
  • Tanning or peeling of the skin after recovery, depending on severity of the burn.

Causes

Excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, that is partially screened by smoke and smog but not screened out by thin clouds, A great deal of ultraviolet light reflects from water and sand hence more incidence after a visit to the beach.

Risk Increases With

  • Fair skin.
  • Use of certain drugs including Sulfa, Tetracycline or Amoxycillin.

Prevention

  • Avoid the sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Use a sun-block preparation for outdoor activity. Products with a sun-protective value of 15 or more protect almost totally. Those with lower values offer partial protection and allow minimal tanning. Some of these resist water and perspiration, but reapply them after swimming or after prolonged exposure. Mind you, baby oil or mineral oil offer no protection from the sun.
  • For maximum protection, use a physical barrier agent such as zinc-oxide ointment. Reapply after swimming and at frequent intervals during exposure. Barrier agents are especially helpful on skin areas that are most susceptible to burns, such as the nose, ears, backs of the legs and back of the neck (remember seeing cricketers with white cream on nose and cheeks).
  • Avoid brilliant colors and whites, which reflect the sun onto your child’s face.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and physical exam by a doctor.

Possible Complications

  • Skin changes leading to skin cancer (rare).
  • Premalignant skin lesions.

Probable Outcomes

Spontaneous recovery in 3 days to 3 weeks, depending on the severity of the sunburn.

TREATMENT

General Measures

  • To reduce heat and pain, dip towels in cool water and lay on the burned areas.
  • After skin swelling subsides, apply cold cream or baby lotion.
  • For badly blistered skin, apply a light coating of petroleum jelly. This prevents anything from sticking to the blisters.

Medication

  • Use non-prescription drugs, such as Paracetamol to relieve pain and reduce fever. Non-prescription burn remedies that contain local anesthetics may be useful, but they produce allergic reactions in some.
  • Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers or cortisone drugs to use briefly.

Activity

Rest in any comfortable position until fever and discomfort diminish.

Diet

No special diet. Increase fluid intake.

Contact your Doctor

The following occurs after sunburn:

  • Oral temperature spikes to 101F¬†(38.3C).
  • Vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Pain and fever that persist longer than 48 hours.