The symptoms of sunburn like reddening and swelling are temporary in general. However, the skin damage that resulted from the sunburn is oftentimes permanent and can have severe long-term effects on the health such as skin cancer.
The different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum have different characteristics and purposes. For instance, infrared is used to keep warm, while gamma rays are utilized in cancer therapy. Ultraviolet, or UV for short, is divided into 3 bands of wavelength: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C is the one that gets absorbed in the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere. Thus, UV-A and UV-B are what cause sunburn. The two, however, react with our skin differently. UV-A radiation penetrates deeply into our skin, specifically into the dermis and subcutaneous fat layers. This means that the site where new skin cells form is damaged.
Long-term exposure to UV-A causes harm to our dermis, thus resulting in premature aging. UV-B, on the other hand, does not invade our skin as deep as UV-A does. 90 percent of it is absorbed only by the epidermis. The epidermis then responds to this by releasing chemicals that bring about swelling and reddening, which are characteristic of sunburn. Prolonged exposure to UV-B increases the chances of having skin cancer.
For severe cases of sunburn, sun blisters, which are areas of raised skin that contain fluid, may develop several hours or days after the initial prolonged sun exposure. Sun blisters should not be taken lightly. According to studies, a person is five times more susceptible to skin cancer is he/she had at least three sunburn blisters before turning 20. Moreover, the risk of having skin cancer doubles if that person suffered from severe sunburn blisters during his/her childhood or adolescence.
Sunburn blisters are one of the most difficult types of blisters to treat because they are oftentimes big, burst easily, and are prone to infection. Prevention is easier than treatment. If you easily blister in the sun, make sure to use a sunscreen product. In addition, minimize sun exposure from 10 am to 3 pm. If you already have sunburn blisters, you should focus on minimizing infection and scarring. Here are a few tips to provide some relief from your condition:
- Do not touch and pop your blisters. Doing this won’t hasten the healing process.
- Put two tablespoons of salt in a pint of cool water. Soak a few gauze strips in the solution and apply it to the affected areas for around 30 minutes everyday.
- If the blisters rupture, apply a topical antibiotic like polysporin to minimize the risk of infection.
- If pus, swollen lymph nodes, or fever develops, consult a doctor.
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