A burn from the sun may be as mild or serious as a burn from any other source of heat. First-, second- and third-degree burns are all conceivable. Sunburn may be more damaging than other burns because generally more of the skin is damaged. Sunburn frequently occurs in a relaxed situation where sun-tanning was intended or the effect of the sun went unnoticed or was underestimated, perhaps because of being in a swimming pool or the sea, with its cooling effects.
Sunburn is often associated with heat-stroke and because the damage may be caused by ultraviolet light, not heat alone, a sunburn can penetrate below skin level.
There is an increased use being made of ultraviolet light-blocking chemicals in preparations known as sun screens. These are expensive and tend to be improperly used. Their principal function is as a barrier and if significant amounts are not actually placed on the skin then the effect is minimal. Most users will rub the lotion in, as opposed to leaving it on the surface.
What is more disturbing is the suggestion in a recent study that those who use sun screens to achieve a tan run an increased risk of melanoma and possibly other skin cancers. This may be because the sun screen gives a false security that prolonged exposure is safe or the chemicals are imparting some form of cancer-causing effect.
If a burn has occurred, see Burns.
Prevention is the best form of treatment. Avoid exposure and when this is unavoidable or time is spent in the sun with large areas of the skin exposed, use sun-screen compounds efficiently.
Ensure that at least five portions of fruit and vegetable are eaten to encourage higher levels of antioxidants.
If exposure is inevitable or intended, take the following supplements per foot of height in divided doses with food throughout the day: beta-carotene (2.5mg), vitamin E (lOOiu) and selenium (40pg).
Aloe vera and lemon juice or gels can be soothing.
Calendula or aloe vera gels will be soothing and potentially healing for any sunburn.
Homeopathic remedy Sol can be taken at potency 30 three times a day, starting three days before the holiday or sun exposure and continuing until your return.
Strictly avoid any antiseptic soaps or lotions because the loss of skin bacteria will predispose to the secondary infection of a burn.
Many orthodox drugs, especially tranquillizers, antihistamines and anti-nausea drugs, all of which are commonly used in holiday situations, may increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun.
As a general rule of thumb, avoid them. If this is not possible, stay well within the recommended time-dose because many beds are faulty or poorly serviced and the amount of ultraviolet light emitted is not necessarily accurate.
Please follow the general advice for sunburn above if a sunbed is going to be used.