How to deal with sunburn
The painful consequence of not slipping, slopping, and slapping.
Alexander Pan avatar
Written by Alexander Pan
Updated over a week ago
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Sunburn is a pretty common thing in Australia with statistics showing that about one in five adults (21 per cent) get burned by the sun.

Due to the health risks associated with sunburn - as well as all the discomfort that goes with it - we're going to take a deep dive into what sunburn is, what to keep an eye out for, how to treat a sunburn, and how to protect yourself from the sun.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

What is sunburn?

Sunburn is damage to the skin caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Our skin makes a pigment called melanin to protect itself from the sun and this causes the skin to change colour. When there's just too much UV radiation for the skin's melanin to cope with, a sunburn occurs.

While anyone can get a sunburn, those with fair skin are at higher risk of getting burned due to less melanin in their skin.

Signs and symptoms of sunburn

The signs of sunburn can happen in as little as 15 minutes if exposed to constant UV radiation from the sun without any protection, and the skin can turn red within a couple of hours of being burnt.

It's pretty hard to miss the visual signs and physical symptoms of sunburn as it includes:

  • Changes in skin colour, ranging from pink to red and even purple

  • Skin that feels hot to the touch

  • Pain and/or itching

  • Swelling

  • Fluid-filled blisters that may itch and eventually pop or break

  • Broken blisters that peel to reveal even more tender skin beneath.

Treating sunburn

There is no "cure" for sunburn other than time and patience. If you have a sunburn, here's what you can do to ease the symptoms and pain:

  • Gently apply cool or cold compresses, or take a cool bath or shower to ease the pain. Avoid using soap as this can irritate the skin.

  • Drink plenty of water as too much time out in the sun can lead to hydration.

  • Don't pop any blisters.

  • Use moisturiser to keep your skin moist.

  • Speak to a pharmacist about products that help soothe sunburn. Opt for spray-on solutions rather than creams which require rubbing in by hand to avoid any unnecessary skin contact.

  • Use paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling if necessary.

  • Stay out of the sun until your sunburn has completely healed.

Preventing sunburn

Sunburn is very preventable so it's important to make sun protection a top priority. If you plan on spending the day at the beach or out in the sun, make sure you:

  • Wear sun-protective clothing that covers your shoulders, neck, arms, legs and body.

  • Wear a hat that shades your face, neck, and ears.

  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses.

  • Use SPF 50+ or higher sunscreen that's broad-spectrum and water-resistant.

  • Seek shade whenever possible, especially during the hottest part of the day.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Ed, Edd n Eddy

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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