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    Sunburn and Other Sun Reactions of the Skin

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    The sun produces invisible rays called ultraviolet-A (UVA) or ultraviolet-B (UVB) that can damage the skin. Too much sun can cause sunburn, skin texture changes, and skin cancers. Rashes also can be attributed to sunlight. Even on cloudy days, UV radiation reaches the earth and can cause skin damage.

    Sunburn and Your Skin

    Sunburn is a condition that occurs when the amount of exposure to the sun or another ultraviolet light source exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment (melanin) to protect the skin.

    Symptoms of sunburn include painful, reddened skin; however, sunburn may not be immediately apparent. By the time the skin starts to become painful and red, the damage has been done. Severe sunburn may result in swelling and blisters. People who are severely sunburned may develop a fever, chills, and/or weakness. In rare cases, people with sunburn can go into shock.

    Several days after sunburn, people with naturally fair skin may have peeling in the burned areas. Some itching may occur, and the peeled areas are even more sensitive to sunburn for several weeks. The sunburned areas are more susceptible to premature aging and skin cancer down the road.

    Susceptibility to sunburns is increased in people with:

    Sunburn Treatments

    To treat -- or ease the discomfort of -- sunburn:

    • Apply a cold compress to the affected area(s).
    • Take aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) immediately after exposure to the sun to relieve sunburn discomfort and inflammation.
    • Apply a cooling gel or ointment containing aloe vera to the sunburned area or areas.
    • Avoid further sun exposure until the discomfort resolves.

    In cases of severe sunburn or sunstroke, see your doctor immediately.

    Photosensitivity

    Most people's skin will burn if there is enough exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, some people burn particularly easily or develop exaggerated skin reactions to sunlight. This condition is called photosensitivity. People often call this a sun allergy.

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