Sunburn Severity: Mild, Moderate, and Severe
Sunburn is skin redness and inflammation that results from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. A similar type of burn can also occur due to overexposure from a “sun” or tanning lamp.
Sunburn can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on the severity of the burn.
- In a mild sunburn, there is some skin redness that develops about two to six hours after sun exposure
- Redness from a mild sunburn usually lasts about two days
- In a moderate sunburn, the skin is swollen and hot to the touch
- Skin redness and swelling from a moderate sunburn can last up to a week before it heals completely
- In a severe sunburn, the skin is red and feels intensely hot, and eventually develops into blisters
- Blisters and skin peeling from a severe sunburn can last up to two weeks
What Are Symptoms of Sunburn?
Early symptoms of sunburn occur immediately or within hours after UV exposure and may include:
- Skin redness
- Skin irritation
- Skin tenderness
- Skin feels hot
- Pain when touching or rubbing the skin
- Dehydration from fluid loss from the heat
After the initial redness, symptoms of sunburn that can develop include:
- Skin swelling
- Welts or rashes
See a doctor if you have symptoms of severe sunburn. Symptoms of severe sunburn (sun poisoning) include the symptoms above and the following:
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- Severe blisters or soreness
- Shock with loss of consciousness
What Causes Sunburn?
Sunburn is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. A similar type of burn can also occur due to overexposure from a “sun” or tanning lamp that also produces UV radiation.
Certain medications (called photosensitive drugs) can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and make a person more prone to sunburn, such as:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Certain antibiotics
- Diuretics (water pills)
- Certain heart medications
- Some diabetes drugs
- Certain psychiatric drugs
- Acne medications
Some medical conditions can increase the risk of skin damage, including severe sunburn, from exposure to UV radiation. These conditions include:
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