Health Tips

Search by health tip group
Search by keyword

Health Tips / Sunburn

Diagnosis and Symptoms

We all know that the suns rays can be harmful, in particular to the fair-skin Celts. Of the sunrays, UVA rays are associated with tanning and aging, UVB with sunburn and UVC rays are filtered through the ozone layer. The skin contains melanin, which is a brown protective pigment. Fair-skinned people contain less melanin in their skin and will thus burn more easily than darker-skinned people and are considered more disposed to developing skin cancer.

Sunburn is a reddening of the skin due to an increase in the blood flow to the surface of the skin. The skin becomes tender to touch and within two to eight hours it can become very itchy and can start to form blisters. The condition is very painful and often irritated by clothing. In severe cases, those affected may feel generally unwell.

Preventative measures

A sunscreen of a suitable factor should be selected. Sunscreens are rated using a Sun Protection Factor system (SPF) according to how they protect the skin against UVB rays and thus how well they prevent sunburn. An SPF of 6 means that the sunscreen allows the user to stay in the sun six times longer than if they did not use any sun protection.

Many sunscreens also contain UVA filters, which protect against the aging effects of the sun. UVA protection is rated using a four star system, with products providing the greatest filtering ability carrying four stars.

The sunburn index is a measure of how long unprotected individuals can can stay in the sun without burning.

Photosensitive individuals should avoid using products which contain PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) or Bergamot Oil which can occasionally cause skin reactions.

It is recommended that babies and sun sensitive individuals use a high factor or preferably a sun block. La Roche Posay and Vichy sun blocks are both recommended for sun intolerant skin. The sunscreen should be applied liberally and frequently and after bathing even in the case of water-resistant sunscreens.

Sun sensitivity (photosensitivity) can be increased whilst taking certain medications including the contraceptive pill and tetracycline antibiotics. Additional sun protection factors should be used or better still the sun should be avoided if taking medicines which cause photosensitivity. Remember that burning can occur even on a dull day. Sun sensitive individuals should sit in the shade and wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

Non-prescription treatments

Aftersun products and moisturisers should be applied frequently and liberally to prevent the skin from dehydrating and becoming itchy. For a cooling effect, they can be stored in the fridge. For itchy skin, EURAX cream or lotion or CALAMINE LOTION can be applied two to three times daily for adults and children over three years providing relief for 6-10 hours. For Children under 3 years a once daily application is often recommended. Consult your pharmacist for advice. 

Aloe-Vera gels have traditionally been used to assist the healing of sun-damaged skin.

For pain, paracetamol is often recommended. 

Further information on medicines listed including dosages is available at 

Related health tips:
Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00