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Sun-related conditions

Excessive exposure to sun can cause a number of harmful skin conditions. Jean Watkins describes the potential side effects and dangers.


An inflammatory response to excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), which may be the sun, sun beds or phototherapy lamps. The skin becomes hot, inflamed, painful and tender within a few hours. In more severe cases, vesicles and blisters form, and there may be headache, vomiting and feeling unwell. In most cases, there will be spontaneous resolution and symptoms can be eased by cool compresses, analgesics, topical emollients, topical diclofenac sodium and plenty of fluids. Referral is necessary for deep, full thickness burns, burns involving over 10 per cent of the body surface of adults or three per cent in children, and cases of dehydration and heat stroke. The fair skinned with fair hair and blue eyes are at greater risk of sunburn and should be advised to avoid exposure as much as possible, especially between 11am and 3pm, to wear protective clothing and a hat, and liberally apply sunscreen half an hour before leaving the house, and reapplying at least every two hours. Sun protection factor (SPF) factor 30 is recommended for the most vulnerable, and factor 15 for those that tan but never burn.

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