It's summertime, the rain has finally stopped pounding the Northeast, and the sun is shining! Everyone's favorite summer activities involve being outdoors. Yet whether you prefer partaking in high-intensity water sports or a more leisurely walk around the block, you will expose yourself to the sun's harmful rays. And while you may be willing to endure a small sunburn because you know that it will turn into that prized tan, be aware of the more negative effects the sun can have on your skin.
Sunburn occurs when skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation. People are primarily exposed to UV radiation from the sun but it can also be found in man-made sources such as tanning beds. It's important to avoid sunburns all together. You may be regretting that perfect tan if your skin starts to prematurely wrinkle!
More importantly, prolonged exposure to UV rays can increase your chance for developing skin cancer. According to the The American Cancer Society
, over one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. They've put together a Sun Safety 101
information site as well as tips for protecting yourself from UV rays
. While it's impossible and unrealistic to completely limit your sun exposure, there are a few basic tips you can follow to curtail the damaging effects.
Wear as much clothing as possible when outside. Be aware that your skin can still get burnt through clothing. Dark colored and tightly woven clothing is best. As a general rule-of-thumb, if you can see light through the fabric, UV rays can penetrate it. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat
will protect your head, face, neck, and ears. Also, be sure to invest in a pair of sunglasses
that block UVA and UVB radiation to protect your eyes.
Use Sunscreen! SPF
measures of sun protection. The larger the SPF, the more the protection. However, note that SPF is not related to the amount of time you can spend in the sun before you will get burnt. The SPF scale is also not linear. An SPF of 45 does not provide three times the protection as an SPF of 15. In general, sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher are ideal but no sunscreen provides 100% protection. You should reapply at lease once every two hours and more frequently if you're swimming or sweating.
Limit Mid-Day Sun Exposure!
Solar intensity is highest in the afternoon and therefore it takes less time to be exposed to a great amount of solar energy. Solar intensity also increases at lower latitudes and on clear days. Clouds absorb solar energy, but you can still be exposed to the sun on a cloudy day
Unfortunately, sunburns do happen. While time is the only 'cure' for sunburn, there are a few home treatments for soothing the symptoms.
. It can soothe the pain and calm the burn. I keep mine in the fridge and the cool liquid feels great on the burn! It's like I'm giving my skin a huge drink of water.
Be aware that sun-burned people are prone to headaches and fevers
. Try to lie in a cool, quiet area to help the headache.
Drink a lot of fluids
Sunburned people tend to get very dehydrated
Use an anti-inflammatory
(such as ibuprofen) for the burn's redness and pain.
Avoid more sun exposure
. It's best to cover up with clothing because applying sunscreen may irritate the burn.
Do not break blisters
. They are a part of the healing process. However, be on the lookout for signs of skin infection while the blister is healing.
If you feel that the symptoms are more severe or more frequent, seek medical attention.
Don't let fear of sun exposure keep you inside! Cover-up as much as possible and enjoy your summer days.