Protecting Exposed Skin from the Summer Sun
It's that time of year when it is easy to soak up too many rays. After all, everyone wants a bronze body like the cool people hanging around the lifeguard's station. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken is featuring summertime ads with the uber-tanned George Hamilton as Extra Crispy Colonel Sanders. Unfortunately, there really isn't a 100% safe way to tan and trying to get a tan too quickly usually results in sunburn.
Myths About Sunburn
You may have heard someone say that it only takes a few days after your skin turns red before sunburn magically transforms into a tan. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, nothing could be further from the truth. Sunburn causes DNA damage to the skin and sustaining five (5) blistering sunburns when you are young can increase your risk of melanoma by up to 80%. Dr. Neil Box of the University of Colorado Cancer Center estimates that one bad burn as a child can increase that individual's risk of developing this life-threatening type of cancer by 50%.
Naturally, those with fair skin are more apt to burn but the damage caused by over-exposure to the sun's ultraviolent light is a threat to everyone regardless of their ethnic heritage. In fact, here in sunny Florida where spending time outdoors is almost year round, the skin cancer death rate for residents over the age of 50 has doubled since 1975. Drinking alcohol while exposing unprotected skin to UV light just increases one's risk.
Importance of UV Protection
It is important to understand that shade produced by clouds or haze only blocks a small percentage of ultraviolent light. Additionally, sand and water as well as other reflective surfaces can burn your skin as severely as direct sunlight. That means there is not a good time to work or play outside without proper protection. Umbrellas, long sleeves, pants and wide-brimmed hats can provide cover and a good sunscreen should be applied to all exposed areas of skin -- even when tanning.
If you or a loved one has suffered severe sunburn, you should seek immediate medical attention. Blisters and peeling layers of skin can become infected and lead to further complications. For less serious but painful occurrences, topical over-the-counter creams, gel and lotions (Aloe Vera, hydrocortisone, etc.) can provide relief from burning or itchy areas. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or Aleve can also help to control inflammation and pain. Fortunately, it is never too early or too late to start protecting yourself and your loved ones from the sun's damaging rays.