Sunburns can be incredibly painful and sometimes take a long time to heal, but what is the reason for this? The answer lies in your skin.
When you get sunburnt, it means that your skin’s cells have been damaged by overexposure to UV rays.
The reason sunburned skin is hot is that the damage causes an inflammatory response which makes your body send blood vessels and white blood cells to the area of injury in order to help with healing. These cells create heat as they go about their work.
While the process of inflammation naturally cools down over time, typically after 24 hours or so, some residual heat will remain due to the large amount of tissue destruction that occurs during an extreme sunburn.
If you’re feeling like your sunburn is still too warm for comfort, a cold compress may make it more bearable.
Sunburns leave an itchy feeling on your skin and can even lead to infection if not treated. If you get burned, what you should do is cover the burn with a cold compress or use ice packs in order to keep it cool.
You should also drink plenty of water in order to avoid dehydration that could come from the sun’s heat.
Why sunburns feel worse at night?
Sunburns are one of the most common skin conditions in America, with more than 3 million cases each year. Although there are ways to prevent getting a sunburn, it still happens.
Sunburns happen when you get too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or an artificial source like tanning beds. Although both heat and UV rays damage skin cells, UV radiation damages them faster than heat does. This causes your cells to release chemicals that produce inflammation and pain.
This is why when you have a sunburn, it can feel worse at night because even though there’s no sunlight during the nighttime hours, your body still feels inflamed due to its exposure during the daytime hours.
If you’ve ever felt this way after being out in the sun for too long, it may be because the sunburn makes you feel hotter at night.
Sunburns make your skin feel hot for two main reasons
The first reason is that the sun’s UV rays damage cells in your skin, which results in an inflammatory response from your immune system. This means that white blood cells come to the site of injury to battle the damage. These cells create heat as they do their job.
The second reason your skin feels so hot is because of vasodilation, or widening of blood vessels in the injured area. Blood vessels expand to bring more blood to heal the injury, which also increases body temperature at the site of injury.
Even though sunburns happen over the course of a few days, they can get progressively more painful. This is because inflammation and vasodilation continue to increase during that time.
The pain may be unbearable for some people, which can lead to complications like infection if it’s not treated properly. Everyone reacts differently to sunburns, but one thing remains consistent – the treatment is still the same.
You have to put cold compresses or ice packs on your sunburn in order to bring down the inflammation and swelling.
In addition, you need to drink a lot of water, since sunburns can lead to dehydration from heat exposure.
If you do this, your skin will start feeling better faster.
Why sunburns itch
Sunburns itch because of the healing process. The sun’s UV rays can cause skin cells to die and form a scab, which causes an itchy sensation. This is why people usually scratch their sunburns when they are in pain or discomfort.
If you have sensitive skin, then the ingredients in sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, may cause your skin to itch. However, there are ways you can help prevent or decrease the itching associated with a sunburn.
- Apply aloe vera lotion on the affected area for relief from the itchiness
- Take an over-the-counter antihistamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) which will reduce redness and swelling
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and avoid further complications that come from sunburns
If you do these things and your sunburn is still itchy, then it is most likely because of the scab. Try not to pick at this when itching because it could delay the healing process.
Sunburns don’t heal on their own when they get burned; in fact, they can take a long time to recover from.
For all skin colors, the best course of action is to treat sunburns by keeping them cool with ice packs, taking over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and inflammation, drinking plenty of fluids, and protecting them by staying out of the sun for a few days.
Take care of your skin by wearing sunscreen during the daytime hours, even if you are just sitting inside. This way your skin will stay protected even when there is no direct sunlight.
If you notice any signs of sunburn, such as redness, pain, and itchiness for more than a day or two, then it may be time to see your doctor for treatment.
Usually, these symptoms will go away after a few days if you’ve been given the green light from your doctor following an examination. If your sunburn is giving you too much pain, then your doctor may prescribe an opioid-based medication to give you some relief.
The irritation and pain of sunburns will subside over time with proper treatment.