What is a sunburn exactly?
Sunburns can affect anyone, no matter their age, if they spend extended time out in the sun without adequate protection. Sunburns are easily recognized by the red skin that they cause and they are also painful and hot to the touch. In some cases, people don’t realize they have a sunburn while they are in the sun as it can take a few hours after exposure to the ultraviolet rays for the sunburn to appear. Sunburns can be caused by exposure to the natural sun or an artificial source such as the sunlamps in a tanning bed. A sunburn forms on the skin as the result of the skin being exposed to an excessive amount of ultraviolet light. When unprotected or inadequately skin is exposed to UV light, it produces melanin at a quicker pace than normal to provide a layer of protection against the UV rays. Melanin is responsible for a person’s skin tone as it is the pigment found in the outer layer of the skin the produces the skin colour. The increase in melanin is what causes the skin to tan, with the tanned skin providing a layer of protection against the UV rays to prevent sunburn. Natural protection can only do so much, and when the skin is exposed to too much UV light that the melanin can’t protect, it will still burn which causes a sunburn.
What are the degrees of sunburn?
You may have heard people refer to sunburn in terms of a degree system. Sunburns are classified into 3 different buckets, characterized by the depth and severity of the damage to the skin.
- The least severe of the three is first-degree sunburn. In a first-degree sunburn, the epidermis, which is the outermost skin layer, is the only layer affected by sun damage. These types of sunburn heal naturally within a few days to a week and fade to a tan as the skin naturally flakes off.
- The next level is second-degree sunburn which effects not only the epidermis, but also the dermis. The dermis refers to the layers of skin tissue below the epidermis and is where the sweat and oil glands, capillaries, hair follicles and nerve endings are all housed. This level of sunburn can take a few weeks to fully heal as the damage goes deeper and therefore takes longer to flake off.
- The most severe form of sunburn is third-degree sunburn which causes the most damage. With a third-degree sunburn, the damage impacts the deeper tissues below the skin, and healing can take several months to several years. In the most extreme cases, loss of the affected body part could happen.
How do you know when a sunburn is serious?
Sunburns will appear over time, typically within a few hours of exposure to the sun, but it can take a day or so for the full extent and damage of the sunburn to really be seen and felt. At home treatment can be performed on mild to moderate sunburns with the use of over the counter soothing gels, creams and lotions that people can purchase at most drug stores, specifically to provide relief for sunburns. However, some sunburns are serious as they penetrate deep below the skin and may require medical attention and treatment. It usually takes several days for sunburnt skin to heal as the skin will dry out and flake away the burnt layers to reveal fresh, healthy, non-sunburned skin. The new skin will appear tanned or even still sunburnt as it is usually darker or redder than your natural skin tone but even this will fade over time as the outer layers of skin continue to naturally flake off. Medical attention will be required in the instance of sunburns that cause the skin to blister and swell, with no improvement being shown over the course of several days, to ensure the skin is healing and there is minimal risk for infection.
Should I go to urgent care for a sunburn?
Medical attention should be sought out for sunburns that may fall under the classification of third-degree sunburns. At AFC Urgent Care Dunedin FL, our team of leading healthcare professionals can check your sunburn for any signs of infection or potential areas that could be at risk of infection, as well as provide treatment options for managing the pain and helping to minimize the damage to the deeper tissue layers. Our team will also want to check you over for signs of sunstroke or heat stroke that occur during prolonged exposure to the sun that can be responsible for causing a severe sunburn. Catching and treating either of these conditions early on can help reduce the chance of severe complications and damage to the internal organs. You should also visit our medical clinic if your sunburn covers a large area of your body or is blistering in any way, or if you have blisters appearing on certain parts of your body, like your hands or feet. You should also see us immediately if there is severe swelling, if you have signs of an infection such as pain, pus or red streaks associated with an open blister, if you are experiencing a fever over 103 degrees, or you are feeling confused, dehydrated or have experienced any fainting. If you are experiencing sunburn and need it treated, then do not wait, book an appointment with AFC Urgent Care Dunedin FL, and our team will help you and provide the right treatment. We are located at 1440 Main St. Dunedin, FL 34698. We serve patients from Dunedin FL, Palm Harbor FL, Clearwater FL, Safety Harbor FL, Oldsmar FL, Largo FL, and Tarpon Springs FL.