Ah, summer! We spend hours gardening, swimming, sailing, sunbathing – all under the unforgiving sun. In summer months, damaging ultraviolent “UV” rays are strongest. When we don’t protect our skin or eyes, we can pay a high price. Returning home from the pool or beach, we feel “the burn” of red, painful, hot skin sometimes accompanied by blisters, headache, nausea and fatigue.
Respect: Take Sun Exposure Seriously
Skin pigment or “melanin” helps protect us from damaging UV rays up to a point. People with darker skin produce more melanin and are less likely to burn than fairer complexioned folks. However, UV exposure puts you at risk for skin cancer, regardless of whether you burn in the sun.
A few factors that can place you at a higher risk of UV damage:
- Previously had skin cancer or a family history of skin cancer
- Freckles, fair complexion or eyes and hair color other than dark brown
- Certain autoimmune diseases such as lupus
- Taking medication that either lower your immune system or make your skin sensitive to sunlight
Protect: Take Proper Cover
Before you bounce out the door in flip-flops, cover up. A wide-brimmed hat will shadow your face and neck. Clothe your arms and legs, checking labels of tops and bottoms for the “UPF” or ultraviolet protection factor. The higher the UPF, the better the fabric will block damaging sunlight. Consider looser cut, vented, quick drying fabrics with a dense weave.
At least 15 minutes before you leave, lavish sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or greater on uncovered skin. And take it with you to reapply every 40 to 80 minutes. Your eyes are under assault as well – sun damage can cause cataracts. So don’t forget shades with UVA and UVB protection.
Children and adolescents often resist sun protection and are too active to stay covered up, so skin care experts recommend that parents start early with their young children with education and reminders to cover up.
Soothe the Burn
Sometimes, even when we protect ourselves, the sun scorches our skin. Here are some tips:
1. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Advil or Aleve and drink water to rehydrate. Quick tip: Take these meds right away to relieve pain and swelling.
2. Plunge into a cool bath. Adding apple cider, oatmeal or essential oils such as chamomile or lavender not only relaxes you but can calm your hot skin.
3. Lather aloe or calamine lotion into the burned area. Aloe gel pulls out heat, cools skin and restores moisture. Calamine soothes itch and burn.
4. For severe sunburn, try a hydrocortisone cream.
5. I shouldn’t have to tell you this one but stay out of the sun.
6. Avoid the use of ‘caine’ products such as Benzocaine. These can irritate the skin and cause sometimes dangerous allergic reactions.
When to Visit Your Doctor
Seek medical attention if:
- Your sunburn does not get better within a few days
- Pain and swelling are increasing
- A large part of your body is blistering or you’re suffering from high fever, pain, headache, nausea or chills.
- There is pus draining from an open blister and/or red streaks leading away from an open blister, which can indicate an infection.
The sun’s harmful effects are not to be taken lightly. Sun exposure can lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Cover up to live healthy. Enjoy your summer without feeling the burn!