Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The skin becomes red, warm, sore and tender. It may start to flake and peel after a few days, and will usually fully heal within 7 days.
Sunburn is usually mild and short-lived, but it's important to try to avoid it because it can increase your risk of developing skin problems in later life, such as ageing (wrinkling) and skin cancer.
It can be easy to underestimate the strength of the sun when you're outside.
The wind and getting wet, such as going in and out of the sea, may cool your skin, so you don't realise you're getting burnt.
You should always be aware of the risk of sunburn if you're outside in strong sunshine, and look out for your skin getting hot.
Remember you don't always need to visit a GP for sunburn - a Pharmacist can offer over-the-counter treatments and free advice for mild sunburn (such as aftersun products, calamine lotion, and painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help ease the pain/reduce inflammation caused by sunburn). However do seek medical help if you feel unwell or the skin swells badly or blisters. Stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.
Sun safety tips
Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October.
Make sure you:
- spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm
- make sure you never burn
- cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
- take extra care with children
- use at least factor 15 sunscreen
Advice for adults and children on sunscreen and sun safety in the UK and abroad is available on the NHS website.
Top ways for staying safe when the heat arrives
- look out for others, especially older people, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions
- close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
- drink plenty of water as sugary, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can make you more dehydrated
- never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
- take care and follow local safety advice, if you are going into the water to cool down
- walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, if you have to go out in the heat
- avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day
- wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes
- make sure you take water with you if you are travelling
For more information, please visit the sunburn page on NHS website for more information on:
- What to do if you're sunburnt
- When to get medical advice
- Who's at risk of sunburn?
- Dangers of UV rays
- Preventing sunburn
- Advice for babies and children