Sunburn prevention and treatment is important to your health
Summertime means enjoying the fresh air and activities outside. Even though the weather might be nice and the sun is shining, that doesn't mean you shouldn't protect yourself from the elements. Every sunny day we are being bombarded by the Ultraviolet Rays (UV) of the sun. These invisible rays are a form of radiation that can actually change the structure of our skin cells and are believed to cause certain types of skin cancer. We should always take the proper steps to protect our skin using sunscreen that blocks out these UV rays. But when our skin does get burned, there are steps we should take to recover from these injuries. This brief article will highlight basic sunburn prevention as well as the treatment of burns when they occur.
Protect Your SKIN From The Sun
The peak intensity of the sun's rays occurs between 10 AM and 4 PM. When outdoors during this time, we are more likely to get burned. Not only do we need to be concerned about direct sun exposure, but also reflective sun exposure from windows, buildings, water, or any other way the sun can reflect on us. Worksites and being out on the water are two areas where reflective light is a concern. Anyone who is outdoors during peak hours should take the appropriate precautions and protect themselves from being burned. If you don't have a choice and know you will be exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, be sure to follow these precautions and protect yourself from UV rays.
- Always apply sunscreen that is rated at 15 SPF or higher 20 minutes before exposure to the sun and re-apply every two hours.
- Throw away sunscreen that is 2 years old or greater as it loses its effectiveness.
- Wear dark-colored clothing with a tight weave as it is more protective than light-colored clothing.
- Wide brim hats should be worn to protect your face and eyes from the sun's rays.
Protect Your EYES From The Sun
Most people don't know that our eyes can become sunburned. Red, gritty feelings and painful eyes are most likely the result of extended exposure to the sun. Repeated exposure can lead to eye health problems like cataracts, pterygium, and maybe even macular degeneration. All of these can have a negative impact on your vision. Always wear sunglasses that fully shield your eyes from the sun's rays. Polycarbonate sunglasses (safety glasses) block out 99.9% of UV light and include side shields to protect the eyes from sun exposure.
What to do if you get burned
While a burn from touching something hot is instantaneous, sunburn may take several hours to show itself after exposure. The symptoms can even worsen 24 hours after you have been exposed. The skin may become red, swollen, blistering, and warm to the touch. Nausea and fever can occur in severe cases. These are all symptoms of sunburn and cannot be reversed. The body needs to heal itself and it can take days for your skin to recover. While there is no easy cure for sunburn, there are first aid steps that can be taken to help relieve discomfort and help the body heal.
- Take pain relievers for physical discomfort, fever or headache.
- Take a cool bath to help soothe the pain
- Avoid further exposure to the sun, allowing the body to heal
- Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can be applied to help relieve burning sensation
What to do when severe burns occur
If blistering occurs, these 2nd degree burns can get infected. The CDC recommends:
- lightly bandaging affected areas with gauze to prevent infection
- Don't break blisters because it slows down the healing process
The CDC also recommends seeking out medical attention when any of the following occur after severe sunburn:
- Severe sunburns covering more than 15% of the body
- High fever greater than 101°F
- Extreme pain that persists for longer than 48 hours
Summer weather is a time to enjoy with family and friends. Whether at work or play, always protect yourself from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Follow the basic steps to avoid sunburn. When it occurs, be sure to stay out of the sun and allow it to heal. Severe burns should seek medical attention. As always, talk to your doctor about the best ways to protect and treat sun exposure.
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