Ultraviolet radiation emitted from the sun damages skin and tissues by causing a sunburn, the seriousness of which depends on the length and intensity of exposure. The first symptoms of burnt skin usually occur at the earliest 6 hours after exposure. Sunburnt skin is red and feels hot to the touch. Redness peaks approximately 24 hours after the exposure to sunlight.
Intensive exposure to UV radiation may cause blistering of the skin. In addition to blisters, the damaged area may be swollen and very sore. Sunburns may also result in general symptoms of headache, nausea, chills in connection to sunstroke or heat exhaustion.
Protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation is important. Avoid sun exposure around mid-day (11 am to 3 pm) and always when the UV index is over 3. Wear protective clothing (loose clothing with long sleeves and legs, wide-brimmed hat) or apply sunscreen, also when in shade. Remember to protect yourself from sunlight also in spring, out boating in summer, and when spending time in snowy terrain.
Cool sunburnt skin with cold water. Drinking cold fluids may also be helpful and prevent dehydration. You can apply hydrocortisone cream from a pharmacy on your skin and take over-the-counter pain-killers for the pain and ache, if necessary. Pharmacy staff will help you select the right product, if necessary.
Do not pop any blisters. You can protect exuding or blistering skin with a burn dressing from a pharmacy. Change the dressing every couple of days and keep it dry.
A surface burn heals in a week or two, depending on the size of the injury. A basic cream may be applied to the peeling skin while the burn is healing.
You should seek medical advice, if
- your skin blisters and the burnt area is larger than the palm of your hand.
- in addition to burnt skin, you have general symptoms, e.g. a headache and nausea, which will not be alleviated by resting in a cool place or drinking fluids
- burnt skin has signs of an infection (increasing redness or swelling, or it feels warm to the touch)
Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.