Health Advice What Are The Dangers Of Sunburns

The dangers of getting too much sun are discussed, from skin irritation to possible malignant forms of skin cancer. Advice on how to get your sun without getting the burn.

The dangers inherent in too over exposure to the sun and the resulting sunburn have become more well-known to the American public over the last several decades.

The first thing to look at when discussing sunburn is the UV radiation spectrum. The spectrum can be divided into three categories: UVA, UVB, and UVC.UVB radiation is of primary concern since UVB rays are the ones that pass through the atmosphere and affect the epidermal layer of the skin, and causing sunburn.UVA rays have longer wavelengths than UVB and are responsible for 15% of all sunburns.Sunlamps give off UVA rays.UVC rays are not of any concern since it is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere.UVB rays are responsible for the majority of sunburn-related issues.

Sunburns can cause initial reactions that are none too pleasant. In addition to the red and painful epidermis familiar to sun bathers, sunburn can also lead to skin blistering, chills, and fever. Methods to combat these symptoms would be to splash cold water on the irritated skin, taking aspirin or non-aspirin substitutes for the pain, and having a large intake of fluids to combat dehydration.


Secondary and more severe issues can arise from overexposure to UVB rays. The first and most worrisome is melanoma. Melanoma is the most malignant form of skin cancer, the most fast spreading and likely form to prove fatal. Melanoma can be discerned by the naked eye as raised and dark-colored freckling on the skin's surface. This freckling should be examined by a doctor at yearly physicals, especially in the case of fair-skinned patients of Northern European descent, who have had large amounts of sun time in the past. In addition to melanoma there is the similar condition of Actinic Keratoses, in which sun-induced growths appear on the face, hands, and forehead. These growths are generally non-cancerous, but once again, consultation with a physician is the best way to confirm this. Repeated sunburn has also been known to cause cataracts and other diseases of the eye, such as macular degeneration. Finally, sunburn has been proven by scientists to cause compromises in the human immune system. It affects the efficacy of white blood cells, making sunburn sufferers much more susceptible to sickness. This is known to be the case even in people with more pigment and naturally darker skin.

Several things should be taken into account when trying to avoid sunburn. The UVB radiation from the sun is most dangerous between 10am and 4pm. Overcast days are still dangerous. Clouds are inadequate protection against UVB rays. Up to 80% of UVB rays still get through to the earth's surface on cloudy days. When picking sunscreen product it is imperative that the sun protection factor (SPF) be 15 or higher. In addition to SPF another factor when selecting a product is its substantivity. A product's substantivity tells the consumer its capacity to retain UVB blocking abilities during the course of outside activity such as swimming, and sweat-inducing exercise. The sub-categories of substantivity are water-resistant, sweat-resistant, and waterproof. Regardless of how a product is marketed it is recommended to reapply sunscreen after heavy exercise or sweating. One last thing to take into account with sunscreen is that sunburn is caused more by an inadequate amount of sunscreen being applied than by using a sunscreen with a lower SPF.

Sunburn is particularly harmful in people with fair skin and freckles who burn easily.It can, however, have long lasting, even tragic implications for even those with darker skins. With the proper safety precautions and good medical follow up these risks can be mitigated and the sun can once again be a source of joy and light as it is meant to be.

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