Welding exposes you to ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can damage your skin and eyes. But with the right precautions, you can avoid welder’s sunburn and stay safe.
Got No Time? A Quick Answer for you:
Yes, welding can definitely give you a tan or sunburn if proper precautions are not taken. The ultraviolet rays emitted during welding are similar to those from the sun. Without adequate protection, these rays can damage your skin and eyes, causing sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer. Welders must wear proper protective gear like helmets, gloves, jackets, and goggles to prevent burns. Treatment involves cooling affected areas, moisturizing, pain relief, and seeing a doctor for severe cases. Prevention is key – use sunscreen, cover up, take breaks, and avoid reflective surfaces when welding.
This guide will cover everything you need to know, including:
- How welding causes sunburn
- Symptoms of welding sunburn
- Treatment for sunburnt skin and eyes
- Long term risks
- Prevention tips – use sunscreen, welding helmet, jacket, etc.
- When to see a doctor
So whether you weld professionally or just occasionally in your garage, read on to protect yourself from the sunburn risks of welding.
How Welding Causes Sunburn
The UV light emitted during welding can damage your skin just like the sun. The welding arc produces UV radiation in the UVA, UVB and UVC range.
UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin layers. UVB rays cause sunburn and skin damage. UVC rays are the most dangerous but get filtered out by your welding helmet’s lenses.
Here’s why you can get a sunburn while welding:
- The UV rays from the welding torch directly hit your skin if not protected. This causes an immediate sunburn, especially on delicate or exposed areas like the face and hands.
- UV light also reflects off workpiece surfaces like metals. So even if your skin isn’t directly in the line of fire, it can still get burnt.
- Reflective surfaces like aluminum, stainless steel, and copper intensify the sunburn effects. While matte finishes reduce reflection and sunburn risks.
- Outdoor welding exposes you to UV rays from both the welding arc AND the sun!
So in summary, the high intensity UV light from the welding arc, workpiece reflection, and outdoor sun exposure can all combine to give welders a serious sunburn. 🥵
Protecting yourself fully with welding shields, helmets, jackets, sunscreen etc. is crucial to prevent sunburn. Reflective metals and outdoor welding increase risks significantly.
Symptoms of Welding Sunburn
Welding sunburn on your skin and eyes can show up immediately or take a few hours to manifest. Here are the common symptoms:
- Red, sensitive skin that feels hot and painful, like a normal sunburn
- In severe cases, blistering and peeling skin
- Swelling, dryness, itchiness in burnt areas
- New freckles or moles on sun exposed skin
Flash Burn in Eyes
Flash burn happens when UV light damages your eyes. Symptoms include:
- Bloodshot, watery eyes
- Blurry, hazy vision
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Feeling like there’s something in your eye
- Sharp eye pain and headache
- Tightness in eyes with tearing up
Flash burns can damage your cornea and cause vision impairment if not treated promptly. See a doctor immediately in such cases.
Look out for peeling/blistering skin, new freckles, and eye symptoms like blurry vision, light sensitivity after welding. Monitor for a few hours as flash burns take time to manifest fully.
How To Treat Welding Sunburn
Follow these first aid tips if you get sunburnt while welding:
For Sunburnt Skin
🔥 Cool the burnt area – Use an ice pack or cold compress. Cool running water also helps soothe. Reduce swelling and inflammation.
🩹 Disinfect any wounds – Clean with an antiseptic to prevent infection. See a doctor for deep/severe burns.
💧 Moisturize liberally – Use aloe vera gel, hydrocortisone cream, or moisturizers containing soy, willow bark, antioxidants. Avoid petroleum-based products.
💊 Take OTC pain medication – Ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen for pain relief and reducing swelling.
🍵 Drink extra fluids – Hydrate your body and skin by drinking water, juices, electrolyte drinks.
🚑 See a doctor for severe blistering, intense pain, skin infection signs (pus, redness).
For Flash Burn in Eyes
🌿Use lubricating eye drops – Soothe eye irritation and dryness. Avoid eye drops containing steroids.
😎 Wear sunglasses – Protect burnt eyes from sunlight which can cause further damage.
🩺 See an ophthalmologist – For eye injury, blurred vision, pain. They can check for corneal damage and prescribe antibiotics.
Severe flash burns can progressively damage eyes over hours to days after welding, so be vigilant about symptoms.
- Cool, clean, moisturize sunburnt skin
- Use OTC pain relief medications
- Lubricating eye drops for eye relief
- Seek medical attention for severe cases
Long Term Risks of Welding Sunburn
While welding sunburn fades in days to weeks, repeated exposure without protection has long term consequences:
- Premature skin aging – UV rays damage skin collagen and elastin leading to wrinkles, age spots, leathery skin.
- Increased skin cancer risk – UV radiation accumulative damage can mutate skin cells, leading to melanoma and other skin cancers.
- Eye damage – Severe flash burns cause vision problems, even blindness in rare cases. Cataracts development later in life.
- Weakened immune system – Skin damage from UV exposure impairs immunity against infections and skin cancer.
So make sure to take precautions and cover up when welding. Get annual skin checks and eye exams. Use sunscreen daily. Check for new moles or growths on sun-exposed skin.
Don’t ignore welding sunburn as harmless short term damage. It can increase long term risks of skin cancer, vision issues, infections and aging skin damage over time. Prevention is vital.
How to Avoid Welding Sunburn
Protect yourself fully when welding, whether at home or work. Follow these pro tips:
😎 Wear a welding helmet – Helmets provide complete face and eye coverage. Auto-darkening lenses protect from UV flashes. Use #10 lens for MIG, #11 for TIG, #12 for arc welding.
🥽 Use safety goggles – Less cumbersome than helmets. But protect only eyes, not other facial skin.
🧤 Wear thick welding gloves – Protect hands from UV rays, sparks, metal spatter. Flame-retardant leather gloves are best.
🧥 Cover skin fully – Wear long sleeved shirts, pants, closed shoes. Use welder’s jackets, aprons, neck covers.
☀️ Apply sunscreen – Use SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed skin – face, neck, arms, hands, etc. Reapply every 2 hours.
⏱️ Take breaks – Short breaks every 30-60 minutes gives skin relief from UV exposure.
🏞️ Avoid outdoor welding – Outdoor sun exposure nearly doubles risks. Weld indoors or in shade whenever possible.
🔍 Watch for reflections – Adjust position to avoid skin exposure to reflected UV rays off metal workpieces.
- Wear welding shields, gloves, clothes fully
- Use proper shade lens helmets/goggles
- Apply sunscreen on exposed skin
- Work indoors or shade; avoid reflections
When To See a Doctor
Consult a doctor promptly if you have:
- Severe skin blistering, burning, oozing
- Intense throbbing pain
- Skin redness spreading beyond sunburnt area
- Signs of skin infection – pus, hot to touch, swollen glands
- Eye pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision lasting over 24 hrs
- Headache and vision problems
- No improvement in symptoms after a few days
For serious welding sunburns, you may need:
- Skin – Antibiotics for infection, tetanus immunization, intravenous fluids for dehydration
- Eyes – Medicated eye drops, ointments, eye patches, medication to reduce corneal swelling
So it’s important to get medical attention, especially for deep burns or any eye injuries while welding.
Welding Sunburn: Key Takeaways
🚨 Welding emits UV rays that damage unprotected skin and eyes, causing severe sunburn.
🔆 Symptoms are red, peeling skin and eye problems like blurry vision, light sensitivity.
🩺 Treat with cold compresses, hydration, pain relief. See a doctor for serious cases.
🩳 Prevent sunburn by fully covering skin, using proper helmets/goggles.
😎 Long term exposure increases skin cancer and eye damage risks over time.
🚑 Seek medical attention promptly for severe skin burns or eye injuries while welding.
So in summary, you can absolutely get sunburned from welding due to the high UV radiation exposure. But with adequate precautions like protective gear, sunscreen, working in shade, you can avoid sun damage and welding burns. Be vigilant about symptoms and get medical care immediately for serious cases.
We hope this guide gives you a deeper insight into preventing and dealing with welding sunburns. Share your experiences or questions in the comments section below!