Sunburn Symptoms and Treatment

The sun keeps the Earth warm enough for all living beings to thrive. It gives us light so we can see and it is essential to our life and wellness.

The sunlight contains various wavelengths including, infrared radiation, visible light, and ultraviolet light. While we can’t see these UV rays with our eyes, they can burn our skin.

Prolonged exposure to the sun and frequent sunburns cause premature wrinkles and skin aging. It can also increase the risk of skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

There are three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation. Fortunately, only UVA and some of the UVB rays reach the earth. Ozone layers block the stronger UVB rays and all UVC spectrum and do not reach the earth.

We associate UVA rays with skin aging and UVB rays with sunburn. However, the truth is that exposure to both of them can lead to sunburns.

sunburn - woman with racerback tan lines on back

Sunburn Symptoms

You’ve probably experienced sunburn at least once in your life. After spending too much time in the sun or exposure to UV light from tanning beds, your skin can become red. Sunburns cause the skin to be look inflamed and feel painful. It can also feel hot when you touch it.

Severe sunburns have a different set of symptoms. These include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Severe dehydration

It’s important to also be aware of heatstroke symptoms, as sometimes you can mistake them as severe sunburn. They include:

  • High body temperature
  • Racing heart rate
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Extreme headaches

If you or someone you know is experiencing heatstroke, seek urgent medical care.

There are home remedies to help relieve mild sunburn symptoms, but it can take days to fade away.

sunburn - aloe vera plant

Sunburn Treatment

The first thing you need to do after getting sunburn is to avoid getting more exposure to the sun, at least for a few days.

Consider cold compresses, as they help relieve both pain and inflammation. Taking a dip in the pool can aggravate your symptoms due to the chlorine. However, taking a quick swim in the ocean during the evening could be beneficial. This is due to the minerals the ocean contains that can help ease inflammation.

Aloe vera is a natural remedy to soothe sunburned skin. The plants often grow in sunny areas. Sometimes you may see people selling aloe leaves on the beach along with coconut water.

Simply cut an aloe vera leaf and apply the jelly substance on the skin affected by the sunburn.
If you can’t find natural aloe vera leaves, you can purchase aloe vera gel from a pharmacy or supermarket.

It’s important to stay hydrated after getting a sunburn. Drink a lot of water when spending time in the sun and have a few more cups if you get sunburn. Coconut water or water with electrolytes can help replace water and electrolytes you sweat out.

Another home remedy is plain, full-fat yogurt. This can soothe the inflammation and relieve pain. Simply apply it to the skin and leave it on for 15 minutes. Gently remove it with a soft cloth or towel.

Keep your skin moisturized with moisturizers. Apply some on the skin several times a day. This will hydrate the skin and prevent it from peeling as the sunburn heals.

If you are still in pain after trying these remedies, take some Ibuprofen. This will help manage the pain and inflammation.

The tips listed above can help manage minor sunburn symptoms. Severe, extensive sunburns need medical attention.

sunburn - woman in blue hat at the beach putting sunscreen on shoulder

Short Term Sun Exposure

It’s important to be outside in the sun while protecting ourselves from sunburn. Unless a doctor told you to avoid sunlight due to other conditions, short sunlight exposure is healthy.

It’s essential to expose our skin to the sun so our bodies can produce Vitamin D. There are plenty of benefits linked to sunlight exposure. These include:

  • Stronger bones
  • Improved mood
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Healthy blood sugar levels
  • Less inflammation
  • Improved immune system

Sun rays also have antimicrobial effects, promoting wound repair and reducing pain.

Spending time in the sun can help you sleep better. This is because it regulates your circadian rhythm. Some people use special light therapy to manage seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that develops due to insufficient exposure to sunlight. People typically experience this in the winter.

So, how much time should you spend in the sun? If you plan to spend more than 15 minutes exposed to the sun, apply sunscreen. It’s wise to apply sunscreen to the face at all times and wear sunglasses. This will prevent premature aging of the skin.

Avoid peak hours when the sun is very strong. We recommend sunlight exposure in the morning or late afternoon to avoid sunburn.

If you don’t live in an area where you can enjoy some time in the sun, consider taking Vitamin D supplements. Since sun exposure is the primary source of the nutrient, supplements are beneficial.

A recent study found that just 10 to 20 minutes in the sun during the spring and summer are enough to produce Vitamin D. However, in the winter you would need almost two hours to produce the same amount of Vitamin D.


Sun exposure is important for our health and happiness. It’s important to protect ourselves from the UV rays that can cause sunburn though.

Wear sunscreen and avoid peak hours. If you experience a sunburn, stay hydrated and apply aloe vera. Remember, prevention is the best way to take care of your skin.

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