Sunburns are a common experience that is oftentimes treated at home. In fact, millions of people in the United States experience serious sunburns each year, and it can be easy to give little thought to a small burn after time in the sun. However, it is crucial to recognize the differences between common and severe sunburn and when you should seek medical help.

This guide will look into the effects of the sun, the symptoms of severe sunburn, and ultimately when to go to a hospital for a sunburn.

Common Sunburns

Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction in the skin’s outermost layers that occurs after overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and UV light sources, such as tanning salons. Sunburns visibly appear a few hours after overexposure, and their worst state would often settle 24 to 36 hours after exposure.

Those who regularly work outside in direct sunlight, play sports, or spend time outside are at higher risk of experiencing sunburns. Melanin, the pigment that gives our skin its color and defense against the sun, darkens our body’s outer layer as a method of protection. Depending on your genetics and natural melanin production, those with fairer skin tones may be more susceptible to sunburns than those with tanner skin tones.

Symptoms of a common sunburn include:

  • Redness and pain
  • Skin swelling
  • Dry, itching, and peeling skin
Child with sunburn

When to Seek Medical Treatment for a Severe Sunburn

Severe sunburns accompanied by other symptoms may indicate a more serious condition. Leaving severe sunburns untreated may worsen symptoms and slow the healing process. These burns can cause skin infections and even poor circulation to your vital organs.

When you are considering seeking emergency medical attention, it’s important to consider the presence of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme and unbearable pain
  • Burn accompanied by blisters covering more than 20% of the body
  • Burn accompanied by a high fever, chills, or nausea
  • Signs of skin infection, such as swelling or pus
  • Yellowing or reddening blisters

According to research studies conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunburns can be related to long-term damage to the skin and body. Sunburns are understood to be one of the linked causes of basal and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The sun rays that damage the skin are dangerous enough to alter the tumor-suppressing gene, which decreases the skin cells’ chances of healing before developing into cancer. Ultimately, sunburns and overexposure to the sun’s UV light put you at higher risk for skin cancers and other long-term conditions.

Possible Treatments for a Sunburn

Oftentimes, common sunburns resolve three to five days after sun exposure without the need for immediate medical attention, and the pain that accompanies the common sunburn can be alleviated with over-the-counter pain relief medications, and hydrating topical creams, such as moisturizing lotion, aloe vera, and hydrocortisone cream. However, it is important to recognize the distinguishing signs of a common sunburn and a severe sunburn that may need a healthcare provider’s attention.

If you are visiting a primary care clinic to treat your severe sunburns and the accompanying symptoms, the physician may address burns and blisters with medication for inflammation or medicated cream to ease the pain and speed the recovery.

Safety Precautions Against the Sun

The best way to prevent sunburn is to use broad-spectrum, water-resistance sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days. Products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher offers the best protection against the sun’s UV rays. Try wearing shirts with long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim during peak UV hours and avoid any forms of tanning.

woman applying sunscreen

Get Treatment From Village Emergency Centers

It is important to know the symptoms of severe sunburn and when to go to a hospital for sunburn. If you are suffering from severe sunburns and any other painful accompanying symptoms, seek immediate medical attention from a medical professional. Addressing your burns with a physician can help you heal quickly and prevent worsening and long-term damage. Find your Village and explore our comprehensive services by visiting our website today.