A recent article from the Associated Press addressed exactly the type of information we want to provide to you each week in this blog. Here is a summary:
About a third of adults get sunburns each year, and most of those people actually get more than one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a bigger problem than pain, because sunburns are believed to increase risk of the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma. There aren't good figures on how often children get sunburned, but their tender skin can burn especially easily.
While water and sand reflect ultraviolet (UV) rays and make sunburns worse, it's not just the beachgoer who's at risk. A sunburn can hit anyone--from kids playing ball to their parents watching, to the person who does gardening in the backyard.
First-degree sunburns tend to peel in a few days. But more severe second-degree burns can blister and even require a doctor's care, especially if they cover large areas or come with fever and chills. A bad sunburn hinders how well your body cools itself, so it's important to keep hydrated with plenty of water.
To self-treat the pain, take ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter painkillers known as NSAIDs within a few hours of reddening skin. Those pills fight various kinds of inflammation. But DO NOT use those pills before going in the sun; they're among a host of medicines that can make your skin more sun-sensitive!
Cool compresses can soothe a sunburn, and some patients find relief from aloe. But you don't want to put heavy ointments on, because they can trap heat in the skin.
Anesthetic sprays can numb the area, and for more serious burns a hydrocortisone cream might work well.
But to avoid getting a sunburn in the first place, take these precautions:
- Stay out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing with long sleeves and seek shade from umbrellas. At a recent dermatologists' convention, beachgoers wore long-sleeved swim cover-ups and big hats--that is a big hint for the rest of us.
- Don't forget the sunblock or sunscreen, especially on the face, hands and arms that are exposed to sun just about every day.
In my next blog post on Tuesday, July 19, I will write about the difference between sunbliock and sunscreen, and which might be best for you and your family to avoid severe sunburns.