Sunburn and Sun Poisoning (cont.)
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Sunburn facts
- What is sunburn?
- Can sunburn cause permanent damage?
- What is UV light and where are UV rays most intense?
- What are the symptoms of sunburn?
- What are the symptoms of severe sunburn (sun poisoning)?
- Sunburn pictures
- What first-aid measures should be taken with sunburn?
- What is the treatment for sunburn?
- Are there any home remedies to treat sunburn?
- Is a follow-up visit with a physician necessary?
- Why does the skin tan after exposure to UV rays?
- Who is most susceptible to sunburn?
- Can diseases cause a heightened sensitivity to UV rays?
- Can medications increase sensitivity to sunburn?
- What kinds of skin cancer can UV rays cause?
- How can sunburn and skin cancer be prevented?
- How do sunscreens work?
- What is SPF?
- What is the best way to apply sunscreen?
- Do sunscreens expire?
- Can antioxidants protect against sunburn?
- Summer Skin Hazards FAQs
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
Is a follow-up visit with a physician necessary?
A follow-up visit with a physician is not necessary unless the sunburn was severe. Every patient who has suffered significant sunburn should report the incident to a doctor so the burn can become part of the patient's medical history. Doing so will alert the physician, during future check-ups, to look closely for symptoms of skin cancer and other problems sunburn can cause.
Why does the skin tan after exposure to UV rays?
The skin contains a pigment called melanin. It colors the skin, imparting the variety of skin tones we all recognize.
Melanin blocks at least some of the UV rays from penetrating the skin. After repeated or prolonged exposure to UV rays, the skin produces more melanin. Consequently, the skin darkens, or tans, which in turn protects the skin to a certain degree.
Who is most susceptible to sunburn?
Persons with certain pigment disorders (such as albinism) and persons with fair skin are at highest risk of suffering a burn. The American Academy of Dermatology classifies skin types into six categories (in terms of susceptibility to sunburn) for skin colors ranging from fair to black. This is called the Fitzpatrick classification. These skin types are as follows:
Types 1 and 2: High Susceptibility to Sunburn
- Individuals with Skin Type 1 have very fair skin (pale or milky white), blond or red hair, and possibly freckles. Such persons can suffer a burn in less than one-half hour when exposed to summer sunlight at midday. People with Skin Type 1 never tan.
- Individuals with Skin Type 2 have very light brown skin and possibly freckles. They burn in a short time in the sun, although they can achieve a very light tan.
Types 3 and 4: Moderate Susceptibility to Sunburn
- Individuals with Skin Type 3 (called "average Caucasians" by The American Academy of Dermatology) have skin that is slightly more brown than the skin of a Type 2. They can develop a moderate sunburn and a light brown tan.
- Individuals with Skin Type 4 have olive-colored skin. Ordinarily, they develop only a minor sunburn while acquiring moderate tan.
Types 5 and 6: Minimal or No Susceptibility to Sunburn
- Individuals with Skin Type 5 have brown skin and can develop a dark tan while rarely burning.
- Individuals with Skin Type 6 have black skin and never burn.
It is often difficult to accurately determine an individual's skin type simply by looking at the color of the skin. It is best to ask the person how quickly they may burn and how easily they tan. Based on the response, the skin type can be determined.
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