Scientists in the United Kingdom have isolated a chemical in the human body they believe causes the pain associated with sunburn.
If correct, the development could help alleviate the suffering of millions of holidaymakers around the world.
The chemical - CXCL5 – is produced when skin is burnt by UV rays from the sun.
A new range of drugs could potentially be developed to block the production of the substance, reducing pain for those who stay out in the sun too long.
Study leader, professor Steve McMahon, said: “These findings have shown for the first time the important role of this particular molecule in controlling pain from exposure to UVB irradiation.
“But this study is not just about sunburn - we hope that we have identified a potential target which can be utilised to understand more about pain in other inflammatory conditions like arthritis and cystitis.
“I am excited about where these findings could take us in terms of eventually developing a new type of analgesic for people who suffer from chronic pain,” added the scientist, based at the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases at King’s College.
The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.