As the weather turns warmer in spring and summer, most of us will spend more time outdoors in the sun. Exposure to the sun in small to moderate amounts is good for both our physical and mental health. However, in the summer we often get more sun than we need. Did you know that according to the CDC, even a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer later in life? What can you do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays?
An Ounce of Prevention:
01. Stay indoors during the afternoon, when UV rays are at their strongest.
• If you must be outdoors, seek shade under a tree or an umbrella.
• Even if it is cloudy outside, keep in mind that UV rays can penetrate through clouds and cause skin damage.
02. Cover up by using long-sleeved shirts, long pants or skirts.
03. Wear a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears, and neck. Baseball caps don’t protect your ears and neck, so be sure to protect those areas with sunscreen.
04. Wear sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB.
05. Use sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and protects against both UVA and UVB.
• Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours.
• If you are in the water, you should reapply sunscreen every hour, even if you’re using the “waterproof” kind.
• And don’t forget to protect your ears, nose, and lips.
• Sunscreen should never be sprayed directly on the face. Spray it in your hands, then apply to your face.
• Small children should not apply sunscreen on their own. Parents should apply it taking care not to get sunscreen in the eyes or mouth. And avoid the hands as these tend to end up in the mouth and eyes as well.
If you are turning pink or your skin is tingling:
01. Get out of the sun immediately. That pink color or tingling sensation is the first sign of skin damage, which can occur in as little as 15 minutes.
02. If you have a painful sunburn:
• If you are outside when you notice you have a sunburn, get out of the sun immediately.
• Take a quick cool shower or bath to cool off your skin. Do not use any harsh soaps which will irritate your skin.
• If your burn is localized to just one part of your body such as your neck or shoulders, a cool compress is also helpful.
• Moisturize with an aloe gel or lotion. Aloe tends to be very soothing for damaged skin. Do not use Vaseline or other petroleum-based products as these tend to trap heat.
03. Drink extra fluids to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol as it tends to dehydrate the body further.
04. Take Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) for pain every 6 hours. Its an-ti-inflammatory effects will help both the pain and the healing process.
05. Don’t scratch or pop blisters, and don’t peel burned skin. These actions can lead to a skin infection.
06. See your doctor or go to an urgent care if you develop:
• Severe blistering
• Severe pain that does not improve with ibuprofen
• Confusion, dizziness, or feeling “woozy”–these may be signs of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.