Sunburn – what to do?

Sunburn - what to do?

Sunburn (acute photodermatosis) is a burn caused by UV light. Typical symptoms are reddened and painful, sometimes itchy skin. Blisters can also form on more severe burns. We reveal whether home remedies like quark help against sunburn and what options there are for drug treatment. You will also find valuable tips on how to prevent sunburn here.

This is what happens when you get sunburned.

Sunburn is caused by staying in the sun for too long when the body’s repair processes can no longer compensate for the skin damage caused by UV light. If the affected skin cells die, they cause the release of inflammatory messengers. The skin hurts, is red and warms up. 

Most sunburns are first-degree burns, but severe cases can cause second-degree burns.

The insidious thing about sunburn is that the symptoms are often not immediately noticeable. The first symptoms often appear between four and eight hours after sunbathing. The duration of a sunburn varies and also depends on the degree of skin damage. Symptoms are usually at their worst 12 to 36 hours after sun exposure.


What helps against sunburn?

If the first symptoms of sunburn appear, you should react immediately. Under no circumstances should you wait and see whether the sunburn will worsen or remain as a slight reddening. You should take 1,000 milligrams of acetylsalicylic acid at the first sign, for example, when you notice that your skin is tight. The active ingredient inhibits the inflammatory messengers and can thus prevent the sunburn from worsening. It is contained in aspirin, for example.

We also recommend gels or lotions with hydrocortisone,  which you can get at the pharmacy without a prescription, depending on the dosage. Pay attention to any PEG derivatives that may be present. These can cause side effects on the skin, especially in combination with hydrocortisone.

You should seek medical advice if symptoms are more severe, such as blistering or fever. You can then be prescribed more potent drugs if needed. These include antibiotics, for example, intended to stop the inflammatory processes in the skin.

If babies or small children have suffered sunburn, you should generally seek medical advice.

Home remedies for sunburn

In the case of mild sunburn, various home remedies and tips can help to alleviate the symptoms:

  • Cooling the skin:  In addition to unique after-sun products, compresses with cold water, quark, or yoghurt can help alleviate the symptoms of sunburn.
  • Drink a lot: Sunburn causes the body to lose fluids. Water, juice spritzers or unsweetened teas are best.
  • Aloe Vera: Products containing aloe vera have an anti-inflammatory and cooling effect on sunburn. Be sure to use products without allergy-causing ingredients, such as fragrances and preservatives.
  • Lettuce or cucumber: If there is no other remedy, a clean leaf or cucumber can also cool the sunburn.

If you want to get rid of sunburn quickly, these remedies can help in any case, as they support the skin’s healing process. Even if the sunburn itches, these tips are the means of choice.

On the other hand, it is better to avoid the following behaviours if you are sunburned  :

  • Put yoghurt or quark directly on the sunburn:  At least in the case of severe burns, bacteria can get into the skin and irritate it further and, in the worst case, cause infections.
  • Use moisturizing cream for sunburn:  These creams do not have a cooling effect and ensure the heat builds up in the skin.
  • Apply cold packs directly to sunburn: Never use cold packs, like ice packs, to cool a sunburn directly from the freezer, or at least wrap the cold packs in a thicker cloth. Otherwise, these funds are too cold and can even damage the skin.


Severe sunburn: signs

A typical symptom of sunburn is severely reddened skin, which often hurts with every movement. The skin may also be slightly swollen and itchy. Severe burns from sunburns can also cause blisters on the skin.

You should seek medical advice if you suffer from severe symptoms or have a  severe burn with blistering.

This is also necessary if any of the following symptoms appear:

These signs may indicate sunstroke.

sunburn and skin cancer

Although a sunburn rarely leaves visible traces, our skin remembers every burn. The DNA of the skin cells can change due to the radiation. If the skin’s repair mechanism is overtaxed over time, such damage can no longer be repaired. Then, the cells can mutate and form tumours. Sunburns in childhood are considered to be particularly dangerous.

In addition to skin cancer, too much sunbathing can have other negative consequences. The complexion can deteriorate, and blackheads and large pores can increase. In addition, the skin’s elasticity decreases, which is reflected in increased wrinkling.

Preventing sunburn – 7 tips

You can easily prevent sunburns with the correct behaviour and proper sun protection. To do this, consider the following tips:

  1.  You can effectively prevent sunburn with sunscreen. However, it would help if you used enough cream. Which sun protection factor you need depends primarily on the type of skin, the intensity of the sun’s rays, and the duration of exposure to the sun. The sun protection factor should be higher, especially when doing sports in or on the water or when staying in the snow, as the UV light is reflected particularly strongly here.
  2. You can protect your skin from the sun with sunscreen and proper clothing. Be sure to wear a sun hat in strong sunlight. This prevents sunburn on the face or scalp and other heat damage such as sunstroke. It also makes sense to wear a T-shirt with long or short sleeves and knee-length shorts. It is also important to have sunglasses with UV protection, which protects our eyes from harmful rays.
  3. Avoid the midday sun:  You should avoid the sun from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., preferably from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The sun is particularly intense during this time, and sunburn occurs more quickly. Enjoying the sun in the morning or late afternoon when the radiation intensity is lower is better.
  4. Don’t lie down in the blazing sun; look for a shady spot. About 50 per cent of the sun’s rays also reach us in the shade: you will tan a little slower but much more gently.
  5. Suppose you take medicines containing St. John’s wort or tetracycline antibiotics. In that case, you should avoid sunbathing in the blazing sun: the medicines increase sensitivity to light, making the sunburn risk exceptionally high.
  6. Attention: If it is a little windy or cloudy, we perceive less intensity from the sun. Despite this, the sun’s radiation intensity is still very high, especially in southern countries. So remember to apply plenty of sunscreen even in such situations.
  7. The scalp should also be protected from sunburn. If you don’t want to wear a sun hat, you can use particular sunscreen for the scalp. These are less greasy than other sunscreens and do not stick to the hair.

If you have burned yourself, you should avoid the sun for the next few days. Sometimes, it can take a week or more for a sunburn to go away completely.

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