Can Welding Really Cause Sunburn? Effect On Skin and Eyes

can Welding Cause Sunburn

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is: “Can welding cause sunburn?” In this article, I’ll be answering this question in-depth to help you with this avoidable risk. When you weld, either professionally or as a hobby, you get exposed to many risks; these occupational hazards that are, for the most part, unavoidable. However, when armed with knowledge, you can reduce the risk factor.

Can Welding Cause Sunburn? Yes, it can. Welding can cause sunburn which is a risk to both your skin and your eyes. if you’re not cautious while welding, it’s one of the more common risks.

That’s why you’ll find that welders usually have extra-protective gear.

How Welding Causes Sunburn

Your welding torch emits UV radiation and flashes that if they come in contact with exposed skin or eyes can cause a lot of damage. This radiation is similar to that given off by the sun. That’s why this is called the welder’s sunburn.

The sunburn can come from the welding torch itself. Not only that, but the light’s reflection off certain surfaces can also have the same effect.

For example, a matte finish on a surface reduces the intensity of the welding arc. In turn, this reduces the severity of the sunburn. On the contrary aluminum and stainless steel actually reflect the light, so they might cause a more intense welding sunburn.

Color also affects the possibility and intensity of a welding sunburn. Blue colors, for example, reflect the light making the sunburn worse.

On a different note, you can get an actual sunburn, from the sun, if you’re welding outdoors. In this case, I advise you to wear protective neck gear to avoid this.

What Are the Symptoms of Welding Sunburn?

There are obvious symptoms that show immediately, letting you know that you got welding sunburn, while others may manifest after a few hours.

Skin Sunburn

When your bare skin is hit by the welding machine’s UV radiation, you’ll instantly feel the burn. Depending on the intensity of the radiation, the skin becomes sensitive and may even start to peel if the burn is bad enough.

Flash Burn

When you get a flash burn, symptoms may be slower to emerge than when you get skin sunburn. Accordingly, you should monitor yourself and notice any of the below symptoms to get treatment immediately, which helps to avoid any complications.

Learn More About Flash Burn – Here, you can find an article from our website about: How Long Does Welders Flash Burn Last? Symptoms and Treatments

Flash burn symptoms to take notice of include:

  • Blood-shot eyes
  • Photophobia
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred Vision
  • Foreign body in eye sensation

How to Treat Welding Sunburn

If you, unfortunately, get sunburned from welding, don’t wait! You should immediately follow these steps.

For the Skin

1.    Cool Down the Burnt Area

Cooling down the burnt skin helps in minimizing the damage and decreasing the inflammation. You can use a cold compress or just plain ice for a quick fix.

2.    Disinfect the Wound

This is especially important if you have a deep or open wound. Make sure to disinfect to avoid any further complications, such as the development of pus or an abscess.

3.    Moisturize the Affected Area

Preferably when the burnt area is damp, apply a deep moisturizing lotion to help with the healing process.

You’ll find that any topical cream containing steroids is effective in this case, as it both moisturizes and relieves the pain.

You may also want to use creams that contain aloe vera or calamine, as they help with reducing inflammation. Even using after-sun lotion, in less severe cases, should do the trick.

4.    Get Plenty of Fluids

Drinking fluids helps keep you and the wounded area hydrated. This aids in the healing of the skin.

After this initial, let’s call it, first aid response, you can assess the situation. It’s recommended to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Especially in more serious cases.

For the Eyes

In the case of retinal flash burn, you can use lubricating eye drops. You can also cover the eye to avoid contact with light.

However, in cases of injured eyes, I recommend you seek professional medical attention immediately to avoid any unwanted developments.

In most cases, a doctor may prescribe topical antibiotics and oral medication to ease the pain. They may also recommend covering your injured eye to speed up the healing process and protect it from further damage.

Long-term Risks of Welding Sunburn

Apart from the immediate effect and discomfort caused by welding sunburn, there are some serious long-term effects.

Intense and repeated exposure to the UV radiation from the welding torch may lead to the development of mutated cells, which causes cancer in some cases.

Learn More – Here, you can find an article from our website about: Does Welding Cause Cancer? | How to protect yourself while welding

Another risk is if the flash burn is severe enough, it may burn the cornea. This will in most cases result in partial or full loss of eyesight.

How to Avoid Welding Sunburn

Prevention is key when it comes to welding sunburn.

While it’s easy to get sunburnt while welding, it’s also easy to prevent it.

By taking the necessary precautions, one could easily reduce the risk by following a protective procedure and wearing protective gear.

Helmet

Picking the right helmet for you is important and is related to your welding process. Because different welding processes emit different UV intensity, you will, in turn, need your helmet to protect you accordingly.

Generally speaking, if you’re using MIG welding, you’ll need a #10 lens. As for TIG welding a #11 should be good, and for arc welding #12.

You may consider getting goggles as a less bulky option than the helmet. However, these only cover your eyes. So, getting a helmet is more effective as it protects your whole face, not just the eyes.

auto darkening welding helmet

Related Article: How to Adjust an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet: A Quick Guide

Gloves

Wearing gloves helps protect your hand from spatter, sparks, and heat.

And I’m not talking just any kind of gloves. There are specialized gloves for this. You can pick from different thicknesses and different kinds of leather.

If you want to be extra careful, you may add a bit of flame retardant to your glove.

Jacket

Getting yourself a work jacket is essential. If you work in a cold place or outside, there are heavy jackets that will protect you from both the welder’s UV rays and the cold weather.

On the other hand, if it’s summer or you’re working in a hot space, you have the option of a protective apron or bib.

Final Thoughts

Getting sunburn from welding is indeed a possibility if you’re not careful.

However, if you follow the protective procedures, then you can easily avoid contacting welder’s sunburn.

Don’t fret though, if you do get sunburned while welding. There are clear and simple protocols you can follow, which will help you recover.

Recommended Reading

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David Harper

David is the Co-Founder and Senior Editor at weldingtroop.com. David's an experienced fitter and tuner/welder who's passionate about helping others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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