How Long Does Sunburn Last?
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A sunburn is a skin injury caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The most obvious symptoms are pain, redness, and swelling of the affected skin.
It can be an annual event or may come as an unpleasant surprise after spending too long in the sun on vacation. Whatever type of sunburn you have, it’s important to know how long it will last so you can plan for recovery ahead of time.
Sunburns are a common occurrence during the summer months. They can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on how long and how often you were exposed to UV rays.
This article will answer all your questions about sunburn duration, including when it starts and ends, what factors affect its duration, and whether or not it’s contagious.
You’ll also find tips for relieving pain from sunburns as well as information about when to see a doctor if symptoms persist.
Are You Feeling the Burn?
You can feel sunburn coming on when your skin starts to feel hot, prickly, and tight. Symptoms develop hours after UV rays have penetrated the epidermis (outer layer of skin).
There are two types of sunburns: low grade and high grade. A low-grade burn is one that’s caused by minimal exposure to sunlight while a high-grade burn is brought about by spending too much time in the sun or getting burned while not wearing sunscreen.
Sometimes you don’t realize how long you were exposed to the sun until it’s too late since symptoms often take several hours before making themselves apparent.
Do more severe burns last longer?
Let’s understand it by following three types of Sunburns.
1. Mild Sunburns
The duration of mild sunburns ranges from 12 hours to three days depending on its cause, the number of UV rays that were present in the environment, and how long you were exposed to sunlight.
Mild sunburns are very common in people with light skin who have a high propensity for burning under direct sun exposure.
These types of burns can also strike those with darker complexions if they burn easily when they’re exposed to weak sunlight.
2. Moderate Sunburns
Sunburn severity is determined by erythema (redness), blistering, peeling, and pain experienced at the affected site. 
Moderate sunburn typically starts anywhere from a few hours to two days after UV damage has occurred and can last up to a week or more depending on its cause and duration of exposure.
3. Severe Sunburns
Severe sunburns are brought about by spending too long in the sun without proper protection or after getting burned by strong sunlight even when sunscreen is applied.
Other causes include staying under the sun for two to three times longer than allowed, not wearing eye protection, and having an underlying skin condition that makes you more prone to burning.
These types of burns can last anywhere between one week up to several months depending on their severity.
They may also lead to serious complications including permanent skin discoloration, ulcerations on the affected site, and systemic diseases like erythema multiforme major (EMM) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).
Factors that affect the duration of a sunburn
Mild and moderate burns don’t typically need medical attention, but severe burns may indicate a more serious condition.
If you plan on spending time outdoors in the sun, it’s important to take plenty of precautions beforehand.
The following factors may change the duration of your sunburn:
- Ultraviolet radiation intensity that led to your sunburn
- Your skin color and previous exposure to sunlight
- The number of UV rays present in the environment where you sustained your burn
- How often you’re exposed to direct sunlight without protection or with sunscreen applied
- Age and gender (children and women tend to get burned more easily)
How long does sunburn redness last?
The red or pinkish color is typical for mild to moderate sunburn. The skin may also be hot, tender, and inflamed due to inflammation. This redness typically lasts up to three days, peaking on the second day after exposure.
It can take up to five days for full healing. Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can help prevent reddening if applied properly before exposure to UV rays. It should also be reapplied every hour when in direct sunlight.
How long does sunburn pain last?
Mild sunburns usually do not lead to pain, but the burn may hurt when you run your hand across it.
Moderate and severe burns might also be accompanied by tenderness and stinging sensations that can be intense especially in the afternoon when the skin has been under direct sunlight for a couple of hours.
How long does sunburn swelling last?
Swelling is a common symptom of sunburn. It’s brought on by fluid accumulating in your skin tissues which can last up to five days.
How long do sunburn blisters last?
Blisters may appear on the second or third day after exposure and can take several weeks to heal if on the hands, feet, arms, and legs.
These areas receive the brunt of UV damage compared to other parts of the body so they get inflamed more easily.
How long does sunburn peeling last?
The severity of peeling is determined by how severe the burn was.
Mild burns may cause light flaking in small patches that go away within a week.
Moderate burns can lead to heavy peeling that extends across the affected area, typically beginning seven days after exposure. Peeling may last up to three weeks or more depending on how extensive your sunburn is.
How long does sunburn rashes last?
Sunburn rashes are red itchy patches that tend to appear several days after exposure to the sun. They can be mild or severe depending on how long you were exposed and how often.
How long does sun poisoning last?
A more severe form of sunburn, these rashes are brought about by a decrease in your immune system due to over-exposure to UV radiation.
They can last up to six months or more depending on how serious they are.
When to see a doctor for sunburn treatment?
Seek medical care immediately if your burn is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, high fever, dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, abdominal pain, chills, a rash with blisters larger than 4 inches (10 centimeters), or seizures.
These could be signs of sun poisoning and may require immediate medical attention. If you suspect that your sunburn is infected, contact your healthcare provider.
Protect your skin
To avoid these problems altogether, it’s best to protect yourself when spending time in direct sunlight.
You should take the following precautions:
- Avoid exposure to UV rays during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Avoid direct sunlight and seek shade when outdoors, especially on hot and sunny days.
- Cover your skin with clothing made of tightly woven fabrics while out in the sun to avoid UV penetration through the fabric weave. Wear pants, long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses that have ultraviolet protection (UVA/UVB).
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, and remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Make sure to use the right amount (1 ounce for your whole body) and choose a product labeled “broad spectrum” with an SPF of at least 30.
- Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses to avoid UV damage to the cornea, which could lead to cataracts or macular degeneration.
- Reapply sunscreen if you are outdoors for extended periods of time, and be prepared to take a break from the sun if you experience signs of overheating such as headache, nausea, and vomiting.
- Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of a severe sunburn such as blisters larger than 4 inches (10 centimeters), fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 Celsius), or skin pain that doesn’t subside after a day.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with your friends who love the outdoors and are constantly looking for ways to protect their skin from sun damage.
Sunburns can be painful and can cause a range of symptoms from redness to blisters. However, the length of time that these effects stay with you depends on how long you were out in direct sunlight as well as the severity of your burn.
Overall, mild sunburns are typically the easiest to recover from.
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