Types of Sunburn

Types of Sunburn Jun 2, 2020 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

You’ve been outside in the sun or spent too long in the tanning bed, and realized you have a sunburn. It’s bothersome, but does it require medical attention or special at-home care? That depends on the type of sunburn you have. Like other burns, sunburns are classified by degrees. The necessary treatment depends on the degree of sunburn you have. Learn about the types of sunburns and remember that all sunburns can damage your skin. A sunburn doesn’t have to be “severe” to cause significant damage. 

First-degree Sunburns

First-degree sunburns are very common. They are relatively mild and only affect the outer layer of the skin. If you have a first-degree sunburn, your skin will be red, and you’ll experience some discomfort. However, your skin won’t blister, and if there is any swelling, it will be mild.  If you have a first-degree sunburn, you can treat it at home. Cool baths and showers will soothe your skin, but make sure the water is at low pressure, or it could irritate the burn. You can also apply aloe lotion on your skin. It cools the skin instantly, making first-degree sunburns feel better quickly. Continue to treat your sunburn at home for as long as you have symptoms. You should feel much better in a day or two.   

Second-degree Sunburns

Second-degree burns affect the outer layer of the skin and the dermis that’s located underneath. This sunburn is much more painful than a first-degree sunburn and is often accompanied by blisters. There are two types of second-degree sunburns. It’s easy to tell which one you have by evaluating your symptoms. 

Second-degree Superficial Partial-thickness Burns

Superficial partial-thickness burns injure a part of your dermis. If you press the sunburned skin, it will turn white. Then, when you release your skin, it will turn red again. You will likely experience moderate pain and discomfort, as well as swelling and blisters. The symptoms normally last for 48 hours. Be careful to avoid popping the blisters and treat the sunburn with cool baths and showers, as well as aloe. Also, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers to help with your discomfort. 

Second-degree Deep Partial-thickness Burns

Second-degree deep partial-thickness burns are much more severe. The burn causes greater damage to the dermis and can lead to permanent discoloration and scarring. If you have a second-degree deep partial-thickness burn, you’ll probably notice that your skin looks spotted, alternating between white and red. It will also likely be swollen and painful, and you can expect to see blisters on the burn site.  With this type of burn, the symptoms don’t always appear at once. It can take several days before you realize how deep the burn is. Once you realize that you have a serious burn, you need to seek medical treatment. Infection is a serious problem with this type of burn. Your healthcare provider can treat the burn so you can avoid a serious infection. Your provider can also evaluate your skin to see how significant the damage is. Along with an initial evaluation, your provider will need to see you regularly for follow-ups. This type of burn can cause serious damage that could take years to manifest, so regular appointments are necessary. 

There’s No Such Thing as a Safe Sunburn

Sunburns aren’t just unsightly and painful. They also put you at risk for severe skin damage, including skin cancer. It only takes a single sunburn to increase your risk, so protect your skin whenever you go outside. Go to the dermatologist regularly for evaluations and check for signs of damage.

At Complete Family Dermatology, Dr. Geoff Basler and Brent Behrens, PA-C encourage everyone to limit your time in direct sunlight, especially if you don’t have sunscreen or protective clothing. For more information about sunburns, feel free to contact our office.

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