It's the time of year when the weather is warm enough for shorts. But, most of us are so used to winter that we forget sunscreen during quick trips outside to mow grass or watch a soccer game. The local American Red Cross encourages safe practices when it comes to sun exposure.
Sunburn is a medical condition defined as overexposure of the skin to the sun's ultraviolet rays, which can lead to dehydration, fever, second-degree burns, secondary infection, shock and skin cancer. When UV rays penetrate deep into the skin, they cause long-term damage, such as wrinkles, blotches, sagging and discoloration and increase the likelihood of future cases of skin cancer.
One serious sunburn can raise the risk of skin cancer by as much as 50%, even though the cancer could take several years to develop. Once burned, there is no way to reverse the damage of over-exposure to the sun, although there are ways to prevent it and lessen the pain.
- Apply sunscreen with at least an SPF-15 or higher to all exposed areas of the body.
- Minimize your exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is strongest.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and especially after swimming or perspiring.
- Wear clothing that covers your body and shades your face, such as a wide-brimmed hat.
- Avoid exposure to UV radiation from sunlamps or tanning parlors.
Tips for Sunburn Care
- Aloe vera is antibacterial and highly effective for burns because it stimulates the immune system. Aloe vera gel may be squeezed from the leaves of the plant or purchased at most health and drug stores.
- Apply cool, but not cold, compresses and/or take baths for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. Baking soda in the water may help relieve the pain.
- Apply a soothing lotion to the skin, but don't use petroleum jelly, ointment or butter. These can make the symptoms worse and do not allow air to assist healing.
- An over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen may be helpful, but aspirin should not be given to children.