7 Surprising Causes of Sunburn You Didn't Know About

Man suffering from Sunburn

Sunburn is a common skin condition caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources like tanning beds. It occurs when the skin becomes red, inflamed, and painful due to damage to the skin's DNA. Sunburn can be mild, causing only minor discomfort or severe, resulting in blistering, peeling, and a higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life. It is important to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation by wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen, and seeking shade during peak sun hours.

Causes of Sunburn

 

Female with a bad sunburn on her face

 

The primary cause of sunburn is overexposure to the sun's UV radiation. The sun emits different types of radiation, including UVA and UVB rays, which can penetrate the skin and cause damage. UVA rays are long-wave rays that can penetrate the skin's deeper layers, while UVB rays are short-wave rays that can damage the outer layer of the skin.

When our skin is exposed to a lot of UV radiation, it triggers the production of melanin, which is responsible for our skin's color. Melanin helps to protect the skin from further damage by absorbing UV radiation. However, if the amount of UV radiation is too much, the skin can't produce enough melanin, leading to sunburn.

Another factor that can cause sunburn is the time of day, season, and location. UV radiation from the sun is strongest during the midday hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is directly overhead. Some areas, such as the equator or high altitudes, receive more intense levels of radiation. Additionally, UV radiation can penetrate clouds, so even on cloudy days, it is possible to get sunburned.

Individual factors, such as skin type and sensitivity, can also contribute to sunburn. People with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and blond or red hair are more likely to have sunburn than those with darker skin tones. Additionally, people with a family history of skin cancer or a history of sunburns in childhood are at a higher risk of developing sunburn. Certain medications can also make people more sensitive to UV radiation, leading to a higher risk of sunburn. For example, antibiotics, antihistamines, and some acne medications can cause sun sensitivity. It is essential to check for any warnings on medication labels and to take precautions in sun exposure when taking these medicines.

One of the most overlooked causes of sunburn is the use of tanning beds. Indoor tanning exposes individuals to high levels of UV radiation, which increases the risk of skin cancer, premature aging, and sunburn. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), just one tanning session can increase the potential for skin cancer.

Symptoms of Sunburn

 

Woman skin red and peeling because of sunburn

 

Redness

One of the most noticeable symptoms of sunburn is redness on the skin. This occurs when the skin is exposed to UV radiation, causing blood vessels to expand and bring more blood flow to the skin's surface. Sunburned skin is typically bright red or pink, indicating inflammation of the skin's top layer. Redness can occur within a few hours or take up to a day to appear, depending on the severity of the sun exposure.

Pain

Sunburns can be painful, especially in areas where the skin is thin or sensitive. Pain typically develops within six to eight hours of sun exposure and can last for up to a week or more. Sunburn pain is similar to a burn from a hot oven or stove and can be sharp or throbbing, depending on the severity of the burn.

Swelling

Another symptom of sunburn is swelling, which occurs due to inflammation of the skin. Swelling can affect the entire body or be localized to the affected area, such as the face, arms, or legs. Sunburn swelling can make it difficult to move, walk or perform everyday activities.

Blistering

Sunburn blisters appear when the skin's top layer separates from the lower layer, allowing fluid to accumulate. Blisters can be painful and sensitive to the touch and can disrupt daily activities, such as walking or wearing shoes. Blisters usually develop within 24 hours of sun exposure and can last for several days.

Itching

Sunburned skin can be extremely itchy, especially as the skin begins to heal. Itching can be mild or severe and can interfere with sleep and daily activities. Scratching sunburned skin can further irritate the skin and increase the risk of infection.

Peeling

Peeling is a common symptom of sunburn and occurs as the skin's top layer dies and sheds. Peeling can start several days after sun exposure and can last for several weeks. Peeling skin can be unsightly and can be a source of discomfort and embarrassment.

Headache

Sunburns can cause headaches, especially if the burn affects the scalp or face. Headaches can be mild to severe and can last for several days. Headaches can interfere with sleep, work, and other daily activities.

Nausea

In severe cases, sunburns can cause nausea or vomiting. Nausea occurs due to the release of inflammatory mediators in the body, which can irritate the stomach lining. Severe sunburns can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can cause nausea and vomiting.

Dizziness

Sunburns can cause dizziness, especially if dehydration occurs. Dizziness occurs when there is a decrease in blood flow to the brain, which can result from dehydration, low blood pressure, or anemia. Dizziness can be mild to severe and can affect balance and coordination.

Fatigue

Sunburns can cause fatigue, especially during the healing process. Fatigue can occur due to the body's response to inflammation, which can cause a decrease in energy levels. In severe cases, fatigue can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever or chills.

Fever and chills

Severe sunburns can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever and chills. Fever and chills occur due to the body's immune response to inflammation, which can cause a rise in body temperature. Fever and chills can be mild to severe and can last for several days.

Eye irritation

Sunburns can cause eye irritation, especially if the burn affects the face or scalp. Eye irritation can include redness, itching, watering, and sensitivity to light. Eye irritation can be mild to severe and can interfere with daily activities, such as reading or working on a computer.

Darkening of the skin

Sunburns can cause the skin to darken, especially in areas that are exposed to the sun regularly. Darkening occurs as a result of increased melanin production, which is the body's natural defense against UV radiation. The darkening can be temporary or permanent and can affect the skin's appearance.

Long-term effects

Sunburns can also have long-term effects on the skin, including premature aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer. Sunburns can damage the skin's DNA, which can increase the risk of skin cancer. Sunburns can also lead to premature aging, such as wrinkles and age spots.

First aid advice for sunburn and heat illness

 

Woman treating her sunburn with cream

 

First aid advice for sunburn includes

  • Cool the affected area: Start by cooling the skin down by taking a cool shower or bath. Alternatively, you can apply a cold compress to the burnt area. Avoid using ice cubes, as this can cause further damage to the skin.
  • Moisturize: Sunburn can be very drying to the skin, so it is important to keep the area moisturized. Use a gentle moisturizer or aloe vera gel to help soothe the skin.
  • Stay hydrated: Sunburn can cause dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water to help replace lost fluids.
  • Avoid further sun exposure: When your skin is already sunburnt, it's important to stay out of the sun until it has completely healed. If you do need to go outside, you should wear protective clothing, such as a hat or long-sleeved shirt, and use a high SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreen.

Heat Illness

Heat illness is a serious condition that can occur when the body's temperature rises above normal levels due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Heat illness can range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. All of these conditions are dangerous and require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of heat illness include

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • High body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit)

First aid advice for heat illness includes

  • Move to a cool place: If you suspect that someone has a heat illness, move them immediately to a cool or air-conditioned area.
  • Rehydrate: Encourage the person to drink plenty of water or electrolyte-containing fluids to replace lost fluids.
  • Loosen clothing: If the person is wearing tight or heavy clothing, remove or loosen it to encourage cooling.
  • Cool down the body: To help bring the body temperature down, you can apply a cool towel or wet cloth to the person's head, neck, and face.
  • Seek medical attention: If the person is experiencing confusion, seizure, or loss of consciousness, call for emergency medical help immediately.

Prevention is key when it comes to protecting yourself from sunburn and heat illness.

Here are some preventive measures you can take when spending time outdoors

  • Wear protective clothing: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that covers most of your skin. Choose fabrics that offer UV protection.
  • Apply sunscreen: Choose a high-SPF sunscreen and apply it liberally to all exposed skin. Reapply every two hours or after swimming.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can be dehydrating.
  • Take breaks: Take frequent breaks in shaded or cool areas to allow your body to rest and cool down.
  • Choose the right time: Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Conclusion

Sunburn can be a painful and uncomfortable condition that not only affects the skin but also increases the risk of skin cancer. Prevention is key, and simple measures like wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen, and seeking shade during peak sun hours can go a long way in reducing the risk of sunburn. It is important to take sunburn seriously, especially for those who are at higher risk of developing skin cancer, like people with fair skin, a history of sunburns, or a family history of skin cancer. Seeking medical attention for severe sunburn or any unusual skin changes is also important to ensure timely treatment and prevent potential complications.

 

FAQs

How long does it take for sunburn symptoms to appear?

Sunburn symptoms usually appear within a few hours after exposure to the sun, and can continue to develop over the next 24 to 72 hours.

Can sunburn symptoms be more severe in certain individuals?

Yes, sunburn symptoms can be more severe in certain individuals, such as those with fair skin, a history of sunburn or skin cancer, and those taking medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight.

What are the potential long-term effects of sunburn?

Long-term effects of sunburn may include premature aging, wrinkles, and an increased risk of skin cancer. It is important to protect your skin from the sun to prevent these long-term effects.

When should I seek medical attention for sunburn symptoms?

If you experience severe sunburn symptoms such as blistering, high fever, chills, dizziness, or nausea, you should seek medical attention. Also, if your sunburn covers a large area or does not improve within a few days, consult with a healthcare provider.

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Understanding Yaws Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Image: wikipediaYaws disease, a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue, is an overlooked disease primarily affecting tropical and subtropical regions. Although eradicated mainly in many parts of the world, yaws persist in impoverished communities, particularly in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.What is Yaws Disease?Yaws disease, often termed "Frambesia tropica," primarily affects children in rural, tropical areas with limited access to medicines. It spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact, typically manifesting as painless skin, bones, and cartilage ulcers. Without proper treatment, yaws can progress to severe deformities and disabilities.What Are The Stages Of Yaws Disease?Primary StageThe journey of Yaws begins innocuously with the appearance of a single, painless sore known as a "mother yaw" at the site of infection. Resembling a raspberry, this lesion marks the onset of the disease.Secondary StageAs the infection progresses, multiple similar lesions erupt across the body, accompanied by skin rashes that often spread to the palms and soles. Swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and nasal discharge are common symptoms during this stage.Latent StageDespite the apparent subsidence of symptoms, Yaws remains latent within the body, silently progressing and potentially reactivating without treatment.Late StageWithout intervention, Yaws can wreak havoc on the body, causing severe deformities in bones and cartilage, gummatous lesions, and debilitating disabilities.Symptoms Of Yaws DiseaseImage: WHOPainless, Raspberry-like Sores (Primary Lesions)These lesions typically appear at the site of infection and are characterized by their resemblance to raspberries. They are usually small, raised, and may be slightly moist.Skin RashesBeyond the primary lesions, secondary yaws present widespread skin rashes, particularly on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. These rashes, ranging from flat, reddish spots to raised, scaly patches, may appear.Swollen Lymph NodesAs the body's immune system responds to bacterial infection, lymph nodes near the affected areas may become swollen and tender to the touch.Joint Pain and SwellingYaws can cause inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility, especially in the later stages of the disease.Nasal Discharge and CrustingSometimes, yaws can affect the nasal passages, resulting in discharge, crusting, and irritation within the nostrils.Bone and Cartilage DeformitiesWithout timely treatment, yaws can progress to affect the bones and cartilage, leading to deformities such as saber-shaped tibias, saddle noses, and gummatous lesions.Gummatous LesionsThese soft, tumor-like growths can develop on the skin, mucous membranes, and bones, causing further disfigurement and tissue damage.Thickening and Darkening of the SkinChronic yaw infections may cause hyperpigmentation and thickening of the skin, particularly in areas prone to friction or pressure.Fever and MalaiseIn the acute stages of yaws, individuals may experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and general malaise.Secondary Bacterial InfectionsOpen sores and lesions associated with yaws increase the risk of secondary bacterial infections, further complicating the disease and delaying healing.Must Read: Heart Disease In The US: Facts, Causes, and TreatmentCauses Of Yaws DiseaseBacterial Infection (Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue)Yaws is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue, which belongs to the same family as the bacteria responsible for syphilis. However, while syphilis is primarily sexually transmitted, yaws spread through non-sexual skin-to-skin contact, particularly in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.Poor Hygiene and SanitationYaws transmission thrives in environments with inadequate access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and services. Overcrowded living conditions, lack of personal hygiene practices, and limited medical attention contribute to the persistence of yaws in endemic regions.Tropical ClimateYaws are more prevalent in warm, humid climates, where environmental conditions favor the survival and transmission of the causative bacteria. Tropical regions with high levels of rainfall and vegetation provide ideal breeding grounds for disease vectors and facilitate the spread of yaws within communities.Limited Medical AccessIn regions where yaws are endemic, barriers to healthcare access, including geographical remoteness, financial constraints, and cultural beliefs, may prevent individuals from seeking timely diagnosis and treatment. Without access to services, yaws infections can go untreated, leading to further transmission and disease progression.Social Determinants of HealthSocioeconomic factors such as poverty, food insecurity, and lack of education exacerbate the burden of yaws in affected communities. Addressing these social determinants of health is essential for implementing effective prevention and control measures and ensuring equitable access to resources for vulnerable populations.Diagnosis of Yaws DiseaseClinical Examination: Doctors carefully inspect skin lesions, noting their appearance, distribution, and any associated symptoms. Yaws lesions typically present as painless, raspberry-like sores (primary lesions) but can progress to more severe manifestations in later stages.Sample CollectionTo confirm the diagnosis, doctors collect samples from skin lesions, such as scrapings or swabs, for laboratory analysis. These samples are then examined under a microscope using techniques like dark-field microscopy, which allows for the visualization of Treponema pallidum bacteria.Serological TestsBlood tests are often performed to detect antibodies against Treponema pallidum. Serological tests, including rapid plasma reagin (RPR) and Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) tests, can help confirm the presence of infection and assess disease progression.Differential DiagnosisYaws disease may resemble other conditions, such as syphilis, cutaneous leishmaniasis, or fungal infections.Check This Out: Plaque Psoriasis: Key Details To Manage This Skin DiseaseTreatment of Yaws DiseaseAntibiotic TherapyPenicillin, particularly benzathine penicillin G, administered as a single intramuscular injection, remains the treatment for Yaws disease. Alternative antibiotics, such as azithromycin, may be used for patients allergic to penicillin or in areas where penicillin is unavailable.Treatment RegimensA single dose of benzathine penicillin G is needed for primary and secondary yaws. Three doses of benzathine penicillin G are administered weekly for Latent and late-stage yaws.Surgical InterventionIn severe cases of late-stage yaws with extensive bone and soft tissue damage, surgical intervention may be required to correct deformities and improve functionality. Surgical procedures may include debridement, bone grafting, and corrective osteotomies.Community-Based Treatment ProgramsGiven the communal nature of yaws transmission, mass treatment campaigns targeting entire communities are often implemented to ensure widespread antibiotic coverage and effectively interrupt disease transmission.Health Education and CounselingAlongside antibiotic treatment, health education is crucial in preventing yaws recurrence and promoting community awareness of the disease, its transmission routes, and early treatment-seeking behavior.Yaws Treatment /Management PlanCommunity Engagement: Educating communities about Yaws transmission, symptoms, and treatment helps early detection and empowers them to seek timely care.Medicinal betterment: Strengthening medicine systems in endemic regions enhances diagnostic capabilities, facilitates treatment, and promotes disease surveillance.Collaborative Efforts: Governmental organizations, non-governmental agencies, and local communities are instrumental in implementing Yaws control programs.Research and Innovation: Investing in research for novel diagnostic tools, treatment modalities, and vaccines is crucial for advancing Yaws eradication efforts globally.Proactive Prevention MeasuresMass Treatment Campaigns: Administering antibiotics to entire communities interrupts disease transmission and reduces the reservoir of infection.Health Education Initiatives: Hygiene practices, handwashing, and wound care empower people to protect themselves against Yaws and other infectious diseases.Improved Sanitation: Access to clean water and sanitation facilities is essential for mitigating the risk of Yaws transmission and improving public health.Vector Control: Implementing measures to reduce exposure to disease vectors, such as flies, complements treatment efforts and minimizes the likelihood of reinfection.Sustainable Development Goals: Aligning Yaws efforts with broader sustainable development objectives ensures long-term progress toward health outcomes.Distinguishing Syphilis from YawsWhile Yaws and syphilis share a joint etiological agent, they differ significantly in their clinical presentation, transmission dynamics, and geographic distribution. Syphilis primarily spreads through sexual contact, affecting individuals of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. In contrast, Yaws predominantly afflicts children in tropical regions with limited medical care, spreading through non-sexual skin-to-skin contact. Furthermore, while both diseases can cause severe complications if left untreated, syphilis often targets the cardiovascular and nervous systems, whereas Yaws primarily affects the skin, bones, and soft tissues.Also Read: Warning Signs of Parkinson's Disease You Shouldn't IgnoreConclusionYaws disease is a public health challenge, particularly in resource-constrained settings where poverty and neglect fuel its persistence. Through concerted efforts and unwavering commitment, we can consign Yaws to the annals of history, ensuring a healthier, more equitable future for future generations.