Sunburn swelling can lead to psychological distress and steal from your self-esteem and self-confidence. Unfortunately it will affect a significant portion of the population at some point in their lives. This article will explain everything you need to know about sunburn swelling including the cause and the various treatment options available.
Does Sunburn Cause Swelling or Can a Sunburn Cause Swelling
We often see the question “Does sunburn cause swelling” and “Can a sunburn cause swelling” thrown around in the forums, of course by people whose not being not keen – or not knowing the importance of sunscreen protection – to protect their skin leave them with a few more inches on the face or other parts of the skin.
The answer is YES, sunburned skin can get swollen. Swelling of the skin, otherwise known as edema, is usually a sign of severe sunburn and is usually caused by inflammation of skin cells as a result of damage by UV rays.
Sunburn Swelling, Swelling Due To Sunburn or Swelling after Sunburn
Sunburn swelling is one of the main symptoms of severe damage to the skin. Other symptoms may include fever chills, and blistering. Lighter-skinned people are at a higher risk of developing such swelling because they have less melanin (the pigment that protects the skin against UV radiation) than their darker counterparts
Can Sunburn Cause Swelling in Face
You may right now be wondering “Can sunburn cause swelling in face?” Well, sunburn can affect ay part of the body and the face is not an exception. If you go outdoors without protecting your face without a sunscreen, you put yourself at risk of sunburn.
There is a popular misconception that the heat from the sun is what is responsible for sunburn but in reality it is the UV rays that are to blame and not the heat. This is why you can get sunburned on cloudy days when 77 percent of the UV radiation from the sun still finds its way onto the ground surface according to Dr. Val Jones of the “Dr. Val and the Voice of Reason” blog.
Sunburn Forehead Swelling
The position of the forehead makes it particularly susceptible to sunburn and the often associated swelling. I personally once suffered from forehead sunburn that left my skin not only reddened, swollen, sore and dry, but also left it peeling so badly a few days down the line.
Sunburn Swelling Legs – Sunburned Feet Swelling
“My legs got sunburn over the weekend and now my feet seem swollen. Can I link this swelling to the sunburn?” This is a concern that one of our valued readers had a few days ago.
Well, it is possible for the feet to get sunburn and in severe cases your legs – and feet for that matter – can as well get swollen. In addition to the treatment options listed in another section of this article, it is also a good idea to sleep with your legs slightly propped to help improve drainage.
Severe Sunburn Swelling
Prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to severe swelling caused by sunburns. Some worst cases that affect areas like the neck and face can even belabor breathing. Any sunburn that is severe warrants medical attention.
Sunburn Swelling Ankles
The other day someone asked if it is possible to get swollen ankles as a result of sunburn. Any part of the skin can get sunburned – I just said it again 🙂 – and the ankle is as much subject to getting sunburned as the face, neck or chest. So whatever you do, don’t forget to protect those ankles with a sunscreen as well.
Ankle swelling due to sunburn often responds well to adequate hydration, application of cortisone creams and soothing with aloe vera gel. We have looked at treatment approaches in more details in another section of this article.
If the ankle swelling however persists for more than a few days – say more than a week – it is advisable to seek medical attention just to rule out other medical conditions.
Sunburn Swelling Treatment
And here comes the part you have been waiting for. Here are a few sunburn swelling treatment options you may want to consider:
Keep hydrated: Nothing helps sunburned skin more than keeping it adequately moisturized and cool and that applies to sunburn swelling as much as it applies to other symptoms such as itching, redness and pain. And there is a good reason for that; sunburn robs the skin of its moisture and moisturizing is critical to getting the skin to its normal state.
An easy way to keep the skin cool and moisturized is to apply cool soaks; that is, placing a damp washcloth on the sunburned skin for 10 to 15 minutes every now and then. Alternatively, you can just take lukewarm shower or bath particularly if a huge area of the skin has been affected.
Taking lots of water and non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages can also help to soothe the skin and reduce the swelling.
Aloe vera gel: This is yet another simple, but very effective sunburn swelling treatment option. Aloe vera is a small, cactus-like succulent plant from Africa that has very string anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to sunburn and other types of sunburn.
It helps to not only soothe the skin but also to keep it moisturized while promoting healing. Aloe vera is so powerful that some hospitals even use aloe vera gels to treat patients with burns.
You can always buy an over-the-counter aloe vera gel product, but if you have access to raw aloe vera plants, splitting a leaf and applying the exposed juice is as well a good option.
Anti-inflammatory medicines: Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (sold as Advil, Motrin etc) contain both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which can help to soothe the pain and inflammation respectively.
Topical steroidal creams: 1% hydrocortisone cream can also help to soothe sunburn swelling. In case of facial sunburn however, you should be cautious that the cream doesn’t get into your eyes.
More tips to help relieve sunburn swelling:
- Avoid further exposure to UV rays by using sunscreen and staying out of the sun
- Do not apply Vaseline or butter to burns as this can trap in heat and make the swelling (and related symptoms) worse.
- Eat a balanced diet that is rich in lean meat, vegetable, fruits, not to forget enough water and fluids
- If blisters form, do not pop them out. They will heal by themselves but if they break out, apply an antibiotic cream e.g. Polysporin to prevent infection
- Wear loose-fitting clothes to avoid further irritation of the skin
How to Reduce Sunburn Swelling Naturally
For the sake of fans of natural home remedies, here are a few natural treatment options that you may want to consider in addition to keeping the skin moisturized, and applying aloe vera and cool compresses (discussed above):
- Soothe the skin with a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel
- Get an oatmeal bath
- Rinse the sunburned area of skin with cooled freshly brewed tea