Sunburn is a skin inflammation caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (from the Sun). The affected area becomes red, hot and sensitive and, in severe cases, bubbles may develop. If you are fair-skinned, the likelihood of getting such burns is greater.
You do not have to be exposed to strong sunlight to get sunburn. Longer exposure to sunlight and cloudy weather will also cause sunburn, although you feel comfortable.
Mild sunburn is common. Most fair-skinned people get such burns during their first exposure to the strong summer sun. Particularly vulnerable are people from moderate climate areas who are going to a short summer vacation in a country with a hot climate and are trying to get a tan fast.
Repeated sunburn, or regular exposure to strong sunlight over many years, will destroys elastic tissue in the skin and the skin begins to look old and wrinkled. In addition, it can cause solar karatosis (rough, red spots on the skin) at exposed places, especially in people with fair skin. Long-term exposure to strong sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer.
What to do?
You can avoid sunburns with careful sunbath. If you are fair-skinned and the sun is strong, you should sunbathe for only 15 minutes on the first day. Increase the time by 30 minutes each day until you get a tan – which usually takes four to five days. People with darker skin can sunbathe a little longer. In that initial period, it is important to use a preservative (which you can get without a prescription), rather than a cream for getting a tan (olive oil, for example). Once you begin to get a color, apply plenty of oil or sun lotions to prevent your skin from drying out.
If you get sunburn, take the following self-help measures. Protect the burned skin – even when swimming – with clothing. Rub the burned spots with zinc grease or similar creams and take paracetamol to relieve discomfort. Do not sunbathe until redness and sensitivity disappear.
If the burn is very painful, go to the doctor. Corticosteroid anti-inflammatory cream should contribute to faster healing.