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What is sunburn?

Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight. Too much exposure to UV light causes skin to overheat resulting in it becoming red and painful. It may also peel or blister.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces a pigment called melanin which helps protect itself against the UV rays. This is also what makes the skin darken in colour, producing a sun tan.
 
Sunburnt skin becomes red and sore. It will be warm to the touch, even following attempts to cool it. After a few days, the redness may fade into a tan or in very fair people, where melanin levels are considerably lower, the skin may just return to white.
 
The skin may also flake or peel after a few days. This is how the body protects itself.  The skin cells that have been damaged and are at risk of becoming cancerous are shed by the body.
Dark skin can also burn and become damaged if exposed to enough UV light. However, as it contains more pigment, it can tolerate sunlight without burning longer than fairer skin can.
The symptoms of sunburn are not usually immediately obvious. The worst pain occurs between 6 and 48 hours after being exposed to the sun.
 
Severe sunburn
Severe sunburn can cause:
 
  • Blistering
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Fever
 
There may also be symptoms of heatstroke, such as:
 
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
Find out more  about labelling on sunscreen

More questions

Fever is often the first sign of an illness in children. When your child has a temperature it can be a worrying and stressful time.
Febrile convulsions are caused by a rapid increase in the body temperature of young children.
Norovirus is more commonly known as the winter vomiting bug.
Common eye complaints for children and teens include myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.
If a cut is too severe to treat at home then it is important to take your child to A&E or to your GP as stitches may be required. Go straight to the A&E if the cut is to an artery or if the bleeding will not stop.
The wound should heal itself in a few days. If the wound is painful, you can take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Croup, which is usually the result of a viral infection, causes the larynx and trachea to swell, resulting in a deep bark-like cough.
Tooth decay in babies and younger children is commonly referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. 
Cradle cap (seborrhoeic dermatitis) is a rash that starts as scaling and redness on a baby’s scalp.
Tonsillitis is a very painful condition that will cause a child to have several symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, refusal to eat, ear pain, fever, chills, enlarged glands, and a headache.

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