Be prepared for summer dangers
Basking in the warm glow of the sun can make us feel good and, in the short term, make us look good. But the cumulative effects of sun exposure can put us at higher risk of skin damage, early wrinkling, age spots and skin cancer.
The sun produces invisible rays called ultraviolet-A (UVA) or ultraviolet-B (UVB) that can damage the skin. Too much sun can cause sunburn, rashes, skin texture changes and skin cancers. Even on cloudy days, UV radiation can cause skin damage.
Sunburn is a condition that occurs when the amount of exposure to the sun or another ultraviolet light source, for example a tanning bed, exceeds the ability of the body’s protective pigment (melanin) to protect the skin. Symptoms of sunburn include painful, reddened skin; however, sunburn may not be immediately visible. By the time the skin starts to become painful and red, the damage has been done. Pain relievers (such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen), cold compresses, and aloe, hydrocortisone, or moisturizing creams may help reduce pain and discomfort. Severe sunburn may result in swelling and blisters. If blisters form, do not break them – they’re a source of moisture and protection. Breaking the blisters may lead to infection. Consider seeing a doctor if you have a blistered sunburn. People who are severely sunburned may also develop a fever, chills, and/or weakness.
Several days after sunburn, people with naturally fair skin may have peeling in the burned areas. Some itching may occur and the peeled areas are even more sensitive to sunburn for several weeks.
Susceptibility to sunburns is increased in people with:
- Fair skin
- Light-colored hair
- People using certain medications that increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunburn, such as NSAIDs, quinolones, tetracyclines, psoralens, thiazides, furosemide, amiodarone and phenothiazines.
Most people’s skin will burn if there is enough exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, some people burn particularly easily or develop exaggerated skin reactions to sunlight.
More than 80 percent of the signs of skin aging in adults result from their tans as teens. Tanned skin may be revered as beautiful, but that golden color you see is the result of injury to the epidermis, the top layer of skin. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerates the effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer. To prevent sun damage, use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher when outdoors. If you have fair skin or burn easily, boost your SPF to 30 or higher.
The best way to prevent sunburn, premature wrinkles, skin cancer and other damaging effects from the sun is to stay out of it as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you can’t avoid sun exposure, apply sunscreen liberally (don’t forget the lips and ears!), wear a hat and sunglasses and cover up with clothing when outdoors. If you notice changes to your skin such as a mole changing appearance, a new growth, or a sore that won’t heal, see a doctor right way.