MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Why does sunburned skin stay warm or hot for days

Date: Wed Jul 6 09:40:03 2005
Posted By: Tye Morancy, Staff, Medical Physicist/Dosimetrist, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1120162605.Me

Hello Chris,

Thank you for the question.  Funny I should be answering this when I am 
actually experiencing it after attending a baseball game in Boston.

The burned skin feels hot/warm because of the way the body responds to 
this type of injury.  The immune system senses damage and calls for help. 
Help is delivered by increasing the blood flow to the region, essentially 
causing inflammation of the area.  The increased blood flow to this area 
of the skin makes it feel warm and appear red.  Naturally, this hot 
feeling will continue for as long as the area of skin is "under repair", 
which varies from person to person (a few days to perhaps weeks, 
depending on the severity of the sunburn).

As a comparison, there are similar inflammatory responses which we see 
after many types of injury, such as insect bites.

I hope this helped out.

Tye Morancy

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