Sunburn can kill, and acute sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer and promotes premature aging.
Sunburn results when the amount of exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or another source exceeds the ability of the body's protective pigment (melanin) to protect the skin. Sunburn in a very light-skinned person may occur in less than 15 minutes of noonday sun exposure, while a dark-skinned person may tolerate the same exposure for hours.
Ultraviolet rays can cause serious damage to human skin, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunburn is possible throughout the year and on cloudy days; 80 percent of the ultraviolet rays can pass through clouds or fog. Sun lamps and tanning beds can also expose skin to dangerous ultraviolet rays.
Unlike a thermal burn, sunburn symptoms may take a while to appear and may not be obvious for 24 hours. By the time the skin becomes painful, red and warm to the touch, the damage has been done. Usually, the pain is worst within six to 48 hours, and skin peeling usually begins within three to eight days.
Sunburns release toxins in the skin and may cause blisters, swelling and fever. Blisters and peeling of the skin may occur several days after the exposure. A severe reaction to sun exposure, sometimes called "sun poisoning," may include fever, chills, nausea or rash.
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