Articles Posted in Sunburn

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Protection from sunburn:

  1. The sun is most intense between 10am-3pm, so try to limit exposure during these hours.
  2. Wear sunscreens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  3. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure (to allow skin to absorb it); sunscreen absorbs ultraviolet light reducing the amount that reaches the skin.
  4. Wear sunscreens when swimming in an outdoor pool.
  5. Wear hats, protective clothing and sunglasses with UV protection.
  6. Use lip balm with sunscreen to protect lips from burning.
  7. Look for shady areas.
  8. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  1. Feeling dizzy, rapid breathing or rapid pulse, pale or cool skin, extreme thirst, no urine output, sunken eyes.
  2. Fever nausea or rash.
  3. Painful eyes which are sensitive to light.
  4. Blisters which are severe and painful.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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Here’s a story that provides more than one lesson in why you need to protect yourself with the best sunblock to avoid severe burns as you enjoy the late-summer sun.

In Texas, a man was hospitalized with second-degree burns when he fell asleep while outside in the sun without his shirt on. Police say it is likely that the man was intoxicated by alcohol or another substance, which is why the pain from his sunburn did not wake him up. And when he did finally wake up, his pain was so severe that he jumped into the lake next to the pier he was sunbathing on–and then had to be rescued!

Police officers were initially called by someone who saw the burning man on the pier, but by the time police arrived the man had jumped into the water. The police notified the local EMS/ambulance service, and that team successfully pulled the victim from the water. But they immediately noticed the severity of the victim’s burns, which included blisters all over his body from the 100-degree heat.

“Sunburn doesn’t normally rise to this magnitude because people tend to remove themselves from that environment before such burns happen,” said an EMS spokesperson. In fact, he described the severity of the burns to what paramedics normally see during house fires and car fires.

But “it was clear that something else was going on with the victim. His sunburn was the clear consequence of other behavior.”

So before you skip using the sunblock because we are now in September and the sun does not seem as strong as it was a few weeks ago, take this advice: Use sunblock anyway! The sun is still strong enough to burn your skin.

Lastly, do not drink alcohol or take controlled substances and then go into the sun. Taking intoxicating substances not only makes you less aware of how much sunburn you are getting, but it also could cause you to pass out while in the sun. And you surely don’t want to end up with severe burns like the man in the story above, do you?

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Sunscreens are chemicals that are designed to be absorbed by the skin in order to form a sun barrier so you do not get first-degree or even second-degree burns (blisters). Many of the chemicals have been broken down into tiny particles so that they can be sprayed or absorbed more easily. There is clear evidence that they prevent sunburn, but there is very little known about the safety of these chemicals and their effectiveness in reducing skin cancer from sun exposure. There are also studies whose statistical evidence shows that in some cases these chemicals may actually increase your risk of cancer. There are three primary concerns with the chemicals in sunscreen:

1) They are free-radical generators which breakdown the DNA in cells and potentially make them more prone to cancer.

2) They often have strong estrogenic effects, meaning the chemicals could actually interfere with normal sexual development.

3) They are synthetic chemicals that get stored in the fat cells of the body and accumulate over time. When you apply sunscreen, you are putting these chemicals directly into your system.

On the other hand, sunblocks are products whose ingredients are primarily designed to sit on top of the skin and form an external barrier to block the rays of the sun. However, they may include many of the same chemicals as sunscreen.

Tips for Buying Safer Sun Protection:

1) Be aware that any product labeled as sunscreen contains chemicals.

2) Avoid products with the following chemicals:

-Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
-PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)
-Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)
-Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
-Digalloyl trioleate -Menthyl anthranilate -Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free-radical generator.

3) Avoid mists and sprays. Most of the chemical ingredients in these products have been broken down into tiny nano-particles, which are more dangerous internally, and may cause risk to lungs when inhaled as well.

4) Check out the research on the brands you are considering by going to the Environmental Working Groups Sunscreen Guide. The EWG’s Sunscreen Guide ranks the safety of more than 1,700 sunscreens, SPF lip balms, moisturizers and makeup. It also lets you know what kind and quantity of information is available about a given product.

5) Buy mineral sunblock whose active ingredient is zinc and/or titanium dioxide.
By definition, sunblock is meant to stay on top of the skin and block the sun’s rays. It is not designed for total absorption. A good brand is Coola, which is also all natural and contains many organic ingredients as well.

Remember this: Sunscreen isn’t necessarily better because it is more expensive. In fact, some of the highest-rated sunscreens are actually the store brands.

Consumer Reports tested 22 different sprays, lotions and creams. The top three on the list were Target’s Up & Up Sport SPF 30 (spray), No-Ad with Aloe and Vitamin E SPF 45 (lotion), and Equate Baby SPF 50 (lotion). These provided “excellent” UVB protection and “very good” protection against UVA radiation, which can cause tanning and aging of the skin.

An article in the Dermatology Times implied that the difference between a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 vs. 100 is very small, since the SPF 50 product already blocks 98% of UVB radiation from sunlight. The SPF 55 and higher formulas, however, do include Helioplex – an additive that stabilizes UVA-screening avobenzone, allowing this product to protect the skin for longer periods.

Perhaps one of the more important points about choosing a sunscreen is to find one that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. This actually sits on top of the skin forming a barrier against the sun’s rays. One pediatric dermatologist we talked to says that sunscreens made with these ingredients work as a sun block and start protecting as soon as you put them on.

An Australian study also finds by using sunscreen daily you can reduce the chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by half.

If you still want specific sunscreen or lotion, check out this list from Consumer Research.

* Best Sunscreen: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30 * Best Cheap Sunscreen: No-Ad Sunblock Lotion SPF 45 * Baby Sunscreen: Blue Lizard Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 30+
* Sport-formula Sunscreen: Banana Boat Sport Performance Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 100 * Natural Sunscreen: Badger SPF 30 for Face & Body
Remember that spray lotion is much easier to put on, but it doesn’t necessarily protect as well as the rub-on sunblock. The spray tends to be thinner, so you must reapply it more frequently. Do not forget to apply to the lips and ears too.

Here are some other suggestions on staying safe from the sun:

* Check the expiration date. Sunscreen that is expired or old may not be as effective as it once was.
* Do not rely on sunscreen alone. Wear protective clothing and limit time in the sun.
* Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
* Use enough. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of a lotion on most of your body, or spray as much as can be evenly rubbed in and then go back and spray completely again.

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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.

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CBS News in New York ran a story this week about a new proposed law that would make New York the first state to ban indoor tanning for minors.

While this might seem to be a bit too much government intervention for some people, think about this: The issue is rising rates of skin cancer. A 2010 study found regular use of tanning beds can triple the risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease. The risk was quadruple for people using high-pressure tanning beds, which give off more UVA radiation.

“It can be horrific,” said Harvey Weisenberg, who is sponsoring the bill in the state assembly. “This is a cancer-causing process. Teenagers do it for proms. They do it for special occasions. There is lots of evidence” of harm, he claims.

The World Health Organization states that the $1 billion tanning industry uses some machines that can provide five times the ultraviolet radiation of the midday sun. This could raise the chance of cancer in the long term–and even cause second-degree burns in a single session, if someone stays in a tanning booth for too long.

The five-times-the-sun’s-radiation claim, however, is one that the tanning industry disputes. Indoor Tanning Association spokesman John Overstreet, responds that the foundations supporting this research might be biased, as they are financially supported by sunscreen manufacturers. The prominent Skin Cancer Foundation, for example, is funded by more than 50 sunscreen, makeup and skin care companies and drug store chains, according to its website.

“Kids can get an abortion without parental permission, but they can’t get a tan,” said Dan Humiston, president of the National Indoor Tanning Association, which is fighting the measure. He owns 41 Tanning Bed stores from Buffalo to Utica.

Tanning remains popular amongst youth. A quarter of young woman polled by the American Academy of Dermatology said they regularly used tanning beds.

But skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than 3.5 million cases affecting more than two million people each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

The good news is that skin cancer treatment can be very effective when the disease is caught early. Doctors use the ABCDE rule to determine if a mole or skin growth might be cancerous. The National Cancer Institute breaks down ABCDE like this.

– Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.

– Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.

– Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.

– Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea (larger than 6 millimeters or about 1/4 inch).

– Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

The best person to diagnose skin cancer is your doctor. Annual checkups with a dermatologist are recommended.

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With Japan suffering through a national health scare over the leaking of radiation from its tsunami-damaged nuclear power plants, the topic of radiation sickness and radiation burns has made it front and center in the newspapers and TV news programs.

But the most common sources of radiation burns are the sun, and treatments for cancer. First, repeated sunburns means repeated radiation exposure, which damages skin cells so much that the possibility of getting carcinoma, melanoma, or other skin cancer is significant among people who do not take precautions to protect their skin from the sun.

Ironically, for people who have breast, cancer, colon cancer, and other types, radiation therapy is often used to stop malignant tumors from growing and spreading, and eventually killing them. But this treatment often results in radiation burns.

Here are a few things patients can do to help speed healing, and alleviate the pain of these burns–which actually hurt more than third-degree burns that destroy nerve endings.

-Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat severe radiation burns because of the increased need for nutrients and the need to generate healing quickly because of possible surgery to remove a malignancy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works as the pressure within the hyperbaric tank presses upon the vessels and saturates the plasma in the blood. This causes an increased amount of oxygen flow and increases the healing process. It also generates new skin cells.

-Intravenous therapy is used for severe radiation burns because the body can easily become dehydrated. This loss of fluids is due to the exposed, burned skin that cannot hold in moisture, and increased body temperature. Fluids are pumped into the body to help keep the patient hydrated and to speed recovery.

-Cool compresses as well as careful skin care will be needed for a radiation burn site after therapy for a malignancy. Cool compresses are applied to the affected areas to help the healing process and to relieve some of the burning feeling patients may experience.

-Because radiation-burned skin commonly becomes dry, red and flaky, and thus becomes itchy and irritating, applying aloe vera, a gentle moisturizer, to the skin can help ease flakiness and help promote burn healing. Aloe vera presents an ideal radiation burn moisturizer, since it is is gentle on the skin and should not cause further irritation. Aloe vera gel does not contain oils or fats, which act to seal heat into the radiation burn and slow the healing process. But remember that the American Cancer Society cautions that patients with allergies to onions, garlic or tulips may have adverse reactions to its use.

-Pain medications are necessary to ease discomfort from a radiation burn. Anything from ibuprofen to morphine may be administered, depending on the severity of the burns. Lesser burns may be treated with over-the-counter drugs, but doctors may prescribe more serious pain medications for higher levels of pain.

-Debridement of the radiation burn site as well as antibiotic therapy will be used to treat the radiation burn area. Infection also may occur with radiation burns and needs to be treated to prevent further complications from the radiated burn site.

Lastly, consider this: If you do obtain severe burn injuries from a medical treatment, you might want to consult with a person-injury law firm such as Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY, to see if the medical provider was negligent in applying the treatment.