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Sunburn Information and Treatment

A sunburn is a burn to living tissue such as skin or leaves produced by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, commonly from the sun 's rays. Almost all of us will get sunburnt at least once in our lives, and about 5.6 million Australians get sunburnt each year. Anyone who visits a beach, goes fishing, works in the yard, or simply is out in the sun can get sunburn. Improper tanning bed use is also a source of sunburn. Although seldom fatal, sunburn can be disabling and cause quite a bit of discomfort. Symptoms may begin as soon as 1 hour after exposure and typically reach their peak after 1 day. Some severely sunburned people develop a fever, chills, and weakness and on rare occasions even may go into shock (characterized by very low blood pressure, fainting, and profound weakness). Several days after a sunburn, people with naturally fair skin may have peeling in the burned area, usually accompanied by itching. These peeled areas are even more sensitive to sunburn for several weeks. People who have had severe sunburns when young are at greater risk of skin cancer in later years even if they have not had long-term sun exposure.

Sunburn is a visible reaction of the skin's exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the invisible rays that are part of sunlight. A similar burn can be produced by overexposure to other sources of UV such as from tanning lamps, or occupationally, such as from welding arcs. Exposure of the skin to lesser amounts of UV will often produce a suntan. Usual mild symptoms in humans and animals are red or reddish skin that is hot to the touch, a washed out feeling, and mild dizziness. Sunburn early in life increases one's risk of developing skin cancers later in life such as melanoma , basal cell carcinoma , and squamous cell carcinoma . Sunburn can also lead to drying and premature wrinkling of the skin. Sunburn can be prevented by limitation of sun exposure and use of sunscreen products. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 are recommended for most people.

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