Sunburn

OTC Guide, June 2017, Volume 21, Issue 1

Sunburn is the most common dermatologic issue caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but it also contributes to premature aging, cataracts, and wrinkling of the skin also known as photoaging.

Sunburn is the most common dermatologic issue caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but it also contributes to premature aging, cataracts, and wrinkling of the skin also known as photoaging.1 Studies have confirmed that chronic, excessive and unprotected sun exposure is strongly correlated with carcinoma of the skin.1 The first signs of sunburn may not appear for a few hours and should be treated immediately. Most cases are amendable to self-treatment.

Two types of UV rays can damage the skin: UV-A and UV-B.1 UV-A is chiefly responsible for causing wrinkling and premature aging of the skin; UV-B rays are responsible for sunburn, tanning, and accelerated skin aging and play a substantial role in the development of skin cancer.1,2 The intensity of UV-B rays varies by season, location, altitude, and time of day.1,2 In the United States, UV-B rays are at peak strength between 10 am and 4 pm from April through October.1,2

Although all types of skin complexions burn, certain risk factors may put some individuals at greater risk for sunburn, such as the following1:

  • Having fair skin
  • Being an infant or child, if skin is unprotected, because it is more sensitive than adult skin
  • Using tanning beds or sun lamps
  • Being exposed to the sun during peak hours of 10am to 4 pm without using UV protection.

Pharmacists can be key to identifying patients at risk for possible photosensitivity reactions due to the use of certain pharmacologic agents (ie, tetracyclines, antidepressants, antihistamines, estrogens, sulfonamides, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Affected patients should be advised to always use sunscreen when outdoors, especially for long periods.1,2

The American Dermatology Association recommends the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days.1 It is also important to remind patients about routine UV protection to protect the overall integrity and health of their skin and to reduce the chance of developing melanoma.

References

  • Crosby K, O’Neal K. Prevention of sun induced disorders. In: Newton G, McDermott JH, et al, eds. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 18th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists Association; 2015.
  • Sunburn. Medline Plus website. medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003227.htm. Updated May 9, 2015. Accessed April 24, 2017.