What is a sunburn exactly?
Most people have experienced a sunburn at some point in their lives and can easily recognize the red, sensitive skin that typically feels hot when you touch it. Sunburns can take a few hours after exposure to the ultraviolet rays to appear, whether the source was the natural sun or an artificial source such as the sunlamps in a tanning bed, making it hard to gauge when you are in the sun that you are getting burned. Sunburn is the result of the skin being exposed to too much ultraviolet light. When the body is exposed to UV light, it produces melanin faster in order to provide protection against the rays. Melanin is the pigment found in the outer layer of the skin the produces the natural colour of a person’s skin tone. The production of additional melanin causes the skin to tan, which provides a layer of protection on the skin against the UV rays to prevent sunburn. However, the protection can only go so far, and the skin will burn when the skin is exposed to too much UV light that the melanin can’t protect, which causes a sunburn.
What are the degrees of sunburn?
Much like burns, sunburns can be measured by severity in degrees. There are 3 degrees of sunburn, characterized by the depth of the damage to the skin’s layers.
- First degree sunburn is, as expected, the least severe of the three. In this case, the outermost skin layer, known as the epidermis, is the only layer affected by sun damage.
- Second degree sunburn effects not only the epidermis, but also the dermis. These are the layers of skin tissue below the epidermis where the sweat and oil glands, capillaries, hair follicles and nerve endings all live.
- Third degree sunburn is then the most extreme and severe form of sunburn, which causes the most damage. In this case, the damage affects the deeper tissues below the skin, which can cause healing to take several months to several years. In the most severe cases, the affected body part may be lost.
How do you know when a sunburn is serious?
Sunburns will naturally appear within a few hours of exposure to the sun, but it can take a day or so to realize just how severe the sunburn actually is. While sunburns can be treated at home with the use of soothing gels, creams and lotions available at most drug stores, specifically to provide relief for sunburns, sometimes sunburns are serious and may require medical attention. Sunburns can take several days to heal as the skin will peel away the burnt layers until it gets to fresh, healthy, non-sunburned skin. The new skin will still be darker or redder than your natural skin tone but even this will fade over time as the outer layer of skin naturally flakes off. Severe sunburns can cause the skin to blister and swell, with no improvement being shown over the course of several days.
Should I go to urgent care for a sunburn?
For severe cases of sunburn, it is a good idea to seek medical attention at AFC Urgent Care Seminole. Not only can one of our doctor’s check your sunburn for any signs of infection, but they can also check you over for signs of sunstroke or heat stroke to ensure that if you have either of these conditions, you are being properly treated. You should seek medical attention if your sunburn covers a large area of your body and is blistering, or if you have blisters appearing on the hands, face, and genitals. You should also see us if you are experiencing severe swelling, have signs of an infection such as pain, pus or red streaks associated with an open blister, or if you have a fever over 103 degrees and you are experiencing confusion, dehydration, or fainting. These can be signs of heat stroke that can cause severe damage to your internal organs if left untreated, so book an appointment with AFC Urgent Care Seminole. Our team of leading healthcare professionals are here to help treat sunburn and we care about your health. We serve patients from Seminole FL, Largo FL, Pinellas Park FL, Clearwater FL, Safety Harbor FL, and Dunedin FL.