Thursday, August 19, 2010

Health Care and Sunburn

When you are out in the sun, especially during the warmer months of the year, the best advice anyone can give you is to protect yourself from sunburn. The ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) can be deadly if you don't use protection with clothing and sunscreen that has a high SPF rating. If you've ever had a sunburn, you know it hurts. Severe burns need medical attention and can lead to more critical health care issues both short term and long term.

According to, sunburn results from too much sun or sun-equivalent exposure. Almost everyone has been sunburned or will become sunburned at some time. Anyone who visits a beach, goes fishing, works in the yard, or simply is out in the sun can get sunburn. Improper tanning bed use is also a source of sunburn. Yet although seldom fatal (sun poisoning), sunburn can be disabling and cause quite a bit of discomfort. Sunburn is literally a burn on your skin. It is a burn from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The consequence of this burn is inflammation of the skin. Injury can start within 30 minutes of exposure.

UVA and UVB refer to different wavelengths in the light spectrum, according to UVB is more damaging to the skin especially for skin cancer. Both UVA and UVB are responsible for photoaging (premature aging of the skin and wrinkles) and sunburn. Tanning beds produce both UVA and UVB rays. Travel to the southern United States, regions close to the equator, and places at high altitudes all offer the unwary visitor an opportunity to be injured by sunburn. Certain light-skinned and fair-haired people are at greater risk of sunburn injury. Prior recent sun exposure and prior skin injury are risks for sunburn, even in limited exposure to the sun. However, normal limited exposure to UV radiation produces beneficial vitamin D in the skin.

You know sunburn when it happens: red, painful skin that feels hot to the touch. Sunburn usually appears within a few hours after sun exposure and may take from several days to several weeks to fade, according to the Mayo Clinic. Intense sun exposure that results in sunburn increases your risk of certain complications and related skin diseases. These include dry, wrinkled skin; liver spots; actinic keratoses; and skin cancer, including melanoma. You can prevent sunburn and the related skin conditions by protecting your skin whenever you're outdoors, even on cloudy days. If you do get sunburn, several home remedies and treatments can relieve your pain and speed the healing of your skin.

Surveys of US adults show that men have a slightly higher prevalence of sunburn than women, according to Sunburn is more common in children than in adults. Patients at highest risk typically have fair skin, blue eyes, and red or blond hair. The acute inflammatory response is greatest 12-24 hours after exposure. Other symptoms include the following:
--Blistering (severe cases), a sign of either a superficial partial-thickness or deep partial-thickness (second-degree) burn.
--Fever can present in severe cases.
--UVR may be transmitted through clothing, especially when wet, so sunburn may occur under clothed skin.
--Delayed scaling and desquamation occurs 4-7 days after exposure.

Home treatment measures may provide some relief from a mild sunburn, according to Some examples include the following:
--Use cool cloths on sunburned areas.
--Take frequent cool showers or baths.
--Apply soothing lotions that contain aloe vera to sunburned areas. Topical steroids (such as 1% hydrocortisone cream) may also help with sunburn pain and swelling. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
--A sunburn can cause a mild fever and a headache. Lie down in a cool, quiet room to relieve the headache. A headache may be caused by dehydration, so drinking fluids may help.
There is little you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn-it is part of the healing process. Lotion may help relieve the itching. Other home treatment measures, such as chamomile, may help relieve your sunburn symptoms. Additionally, using pure Aloe Vera on sunburn can act as a healing and cooling agent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should consult a doctor for sunburn treatment if:
--Severe sunburn covers a large portion of your body with blisters.
--Sunburn is accompanied by a high fever or severe pain.
--Severe sunburn doesn't begin to improve within a few days. To prevent future episodes of sunburn, use sunscreen frequently and liberally. Select a broad-spectrum product — one that provides protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation — with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. If you take medications that make sunburn more likely, be especially careful. A common example is tetracycline taken orally for acne. Common sense counts, too. Cover up while you're outdoors, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

According to the National Institutes of Health, call a health care provider immediately if you have a fever with sunburn or if there are signs of shock, heat exhaustion, dehydration, or other serious reaction. These signs include:
--Feeling faint or dizzy.
--Rapid pulse or rapid breathing,
--Extreme thirst, no urine output, or sunken eyes.
--Pale, clammy, or cool skin.
--Nausea, fever, chills, or rash.
--Your eyes hurt and are sensitive to light.
--Severe, painful blisters.

To prevent sunburn and other skin conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic, use all three of these sun protection methods:
1.) Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Because the sun's rays are strongest during these hours, try to schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day. Seek shade whenever possible. If you're unable to avoid being in the sun, limit the amount of time you're outdoors during these peak hours.
2.) Cover up. Wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than does a baseball cap or golf visor. Also, consider wearing clothing or outdoor gear specially designed to provide sun protection.
3.) Use sunscreen frequently and liberally. Apply sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply about every two hours — sooner if it's washed away by perspiration or water.

While the sun is out, it's important to highlight the risk of spending long periods of time in the sun without protection at home as well as abroad, according to It only takes one serious burn to potentially have lasting consequences when it comes to your skin. What people need to realize is that people with fair skin can burn in a matter of minutes in the strong summer sun, so it's always better to be prepared and slap on some sunscreen before heading out. Also, specialists warn that anyone who has suffered from sunburn should stay out of the sun when it is at its strongest, because previous damage can make the skin more sensitive and raise the risk of cancer.

Being tan can be cool, but being burnt is not. Be careful when you are outside that you protect yourself from the sun's damaging rays. Who wants to suffer from a bad day at the lake because your sunscreen washed off and you didn't cover up? Do you work outside for a living? Then make sure you follow the same safety rules to protect that skin. Keep kids covered up, and make sure any seniors outside are protected from the sun as well. Skin cancer is no day at the beach.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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