Sunburn and Allergic Contact Dermatitis


Sunburn is characterised by the crimson, painful, and generally blistering pores and skin that outcomes from prolonged publicity to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Different signs embrace tenderness, swelling, palpable heat, and, in additional extreme instances, headache, nausea, or fatigue.

There are 2 types of UV radiation: UV-A and UV-B. Of the two, UV-B is extra harmful, as a result of it damages DNA and might result in most cancers.2 Nonetheless, each UV-A and UV-B rays contribute to sunburn and needs to be averted.3

The danger of growing sunburn is especially excessive between 10 am and 4 pm, the time of day when the solar is most current, inflicting one’s pores and skin to soak up a better quantity of dangerous UV gentle. This threat is particularly heightened in areas with elevated elevation, by motive of lesser safety from the environment, in addition to areas nearer to the equator.2,­3 It is strongly recommended to keep away from being outside in these circumstances for prolonged durations of time with out correct safety.

One methodology of safety from the solar is to put on UV-blocking clothes and niknaks. Tighter woven materials and darker coloured clothes will present higher UV safety.­1 Hats can defend one’s face and neck, whereas sun shades can defend the eyes. It’s ideally suited to have clothes cowl up as a lot pores and skin as doable.

To guard the areas not coated by correct clothes and niknaks, particularly on sizzling days when sporting longer sleeves is unrealistic, sunscreen needs to be used to forestall overexposure of UV rays. When sunscreens are utilized to the pores and skin, they are going to forestall sunburn by reflecting or absorbing the UV gentle.3

They are often constituted of natural or inorganic substances, each of which can equally defend in opposition to UV radiation. Nonetheless, inorganic sunscreens might go away a visual movie on the pores and skin when utilized. Natural sunscreens are much less prone to go away something seen, however they’re extra prone to trigger some type of allergic response.3

Sunscreen needs to be utilized liberally over any uncovered pores and skin 15 to half-hour earlier than solar publicity and needs to be reapplied each 2 hours or after getting moist.1 For correct safety, it’s endorsed to make use of sunscreen with an SPF of not less than 15, though some organizations such because the American Academy of Dermatology suggest an SPF of 30 or extra.3

If sunburn does happen, it’s typically self-limiting and may begin to enhance by itself after a number of days.1 Therapy strategies could also be used, however they are going to solely assist with the related signs of the burn, not deal with the burn itself.

Therapy strategies embrace acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs) for ache and topical corticosteroids, comparable to hydrocortisone, for ache and irritation.3 Corticosteroids might come as lotions or ointments.

Lotions are typically for wetter pores and skin circumstances that could be weeping whereas ointments is perhaps a greater choice for sunburn as a result of they’re thicker and are usually used for dry and flaky circumstances, which sunburn reveals.4 Moreover, ingesting water and moisturizing will maintain pores and skin hydrated because the broken pores and skin peels off, and if itching happens, oral antihistamines, comparable to diphenhydramine, can be utilized to scale back the itching.1

If sunburn is extreme, it could require examination by a doctor. Additional care is warranted when sunburn covers a big a part of the physique, if blistering on the palms, face, or genitals is current, or indicators of swelling or an infection happen, in addition to if the sunburn persists for a chronic period of time.1

An essential issue to notice is that some medicine would possibly enhance photosensitivity, that means that when they’re taken, sunburn might happen with a shortened publicity time. Examples of those medicine embrace NSAIDs, comparable to ibuprofen and naproxen, cardiovascular medicine, comparable to furosemide and amiodarone, and antibiotics, comparable to ciprofloxacin and sulfonamides.5 You will need to counsel sufferers taking these drugs that further precautions needs to be put in place to keep away from UV publicity.

Additionally it is essential to know the chance of pores and skin most cancers that UV radiation poses. Whereas sunburn might be painful and an inconvenience, most cancers might be harmful and life threatening. Any state of affairs that places one susceptible to sunburn additionally places them susceptible to growing pores and skin most cancers, which is why correct solar safety needs to be prioritized.2


One other ailment of the pores and skin that could be encountered is ACD. As individuals spend extra time outside through the summer time months, they may encounter reaction-causing crops comparable to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.

When pores and skin is uncovered to those crops, a crimson rash might develop. Signs of publicity embrace numerous levels of itching, presence of bumps and blistering, and sometimes weeping and crusting.6

This rash growth is because of an allergic response to urushiol, an oil present in these crops.7 Merely brushing up in opposition to the plant is perhaps sufficient to trigger a response. Normally, the response will present 1 to 2 days after publicity however might current as early as a number of hours after publicity.8

The response will usually observe a sample referred to as a crescendo response, that means the rash will begin small and worsen earlier than it will get higher. Though the response is self-limiting, it would take as much as 3 weeks to completely clear.7

Preventative measures for ACD embrace sporting protecting clothes, comparable to lengthy pants, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves, in addition to utilizing a barrier cream, comparable to bentoquatam, which can gradual or forestall oils from reaching the pores and skin.6 When publicity is believed to have occurred, it is very important take steps to scale back the severity and unfold of the rash to come back.

This entails washing uncovered pores and skin completely with cleaning soap and water and washing any garments that will have gotten oil on them.6 This can scale back the quantity of oil absorbed into the pores and skin and stop it from coming involved with another elements of the physique. The earlier the pores and skin is washed, the higher; 50% of the oil might be eliminated after 10 minutes however solely 10% after half-hour.8

Merchandise could also be utilized to the pores and skin to scale back itching and management the rash. Calamine lotion could also be used to scale back delicate itching and relieve dry weeping rashes.8 Topical corticosteroids could also be really helpful OTC or could also be prescribed if the rash is extra extreme.

Oral corticosteroids could also be prescribed if there’s important blistering or if the rash is widespread.7 You will need to observe that antihistamines have very minimal impact on itching from urushiol as a result of histamine doesn’t play a lot of a job within the response to those crops.8

Like sunburn, if sure qualities or severity are met, it might be finest to go to a doctor. These qualities embrace rash discomfort that results in lack of sleep or distraction from every day actions, overlaying a big portion of the physique, being current on the face or genitals, or if the rash doesn’t resolve inside 3 weeks.6

Moreover, quick care needs to be sought if the rash is displaying indicators of an infection, comparable to fever or exuding pus, or whether it is affecting the eyes, lungs, nasal passage, mouth, or digestive tract.6

Whereas these threats to wholesome pores and skin exist, the implementation of correct preventative measures and therapy strategies ought to herald a protected and pleasant summer time.


  1. Sunburn: signs and causes. Mayo Clinic. Accessed June 17, 2021.
  2. Guerra KC, City Ok, Crane JS. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Sunburn. StatPearls Publishing; 2021. Accessed June 17, 2021.
  3. Wanat KA, Norton SA. CDC Yellow Guide, chapter 3: solar publicity. CDC web site. Reviewed June 24, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2021.
  4. NHS. Hydrocortisone for pores and skin. Reviewed December 10, 2020. Accessed June 22, 2021.
  5. Lugović-Mihić L, Duvancic T, Fercek I, Vukovic P, Japundzic I, Cesic D. Drug-induced photosensitivity – a unbroken diagnostic problem. Acta Clin Croat. 2017;56(2):277-283. doi: 10.20471/acc.2017.56.02.11
  6. Contact dermatitis: signs and causes. Mayo Clinic. Accessed June 17, 2021.
  7. Ruenger TM. Contact dermatitis. Merck Handbook Skilled Version. Reviewed February 2021. Accessed June 17, 2021.
  8. Kim Y, Flamm A, ElSohly MA, et al. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac dermatitis: what is understood and what’s new? Dermatitis. 2019;30(3):183-190. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000472


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