Sunburn

August and September are prime times for getting sunburns at home and at the shore.  Remember, this is a true burn, with a thermal cause – Ultraviolet light.  Burns occur from both UV-A and UV-B light.  So look for protection that blocks both types.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is used to estimate the amount of UV radiation it normally takes to sunburn one’s skin with protective sunscreen.  Most recommend at least SPF 30. The FDA does not use the term “sunblock,” but manufacturers consider sunblock to be a physical barrier, like zinc and titanium, that protects against UV-B.  Sunscreens are chemicals that penetrate the skin and protect against UV-A.  Apply these 30 minutes before sun exposure, and allow it to dry.  Look for a broad-spectrum mixture sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB, and re-apply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.

Advise prevention: the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Use sunscreen, wear clothing/hat to keep covered, find shady spots, or stay indoors.  Use UV- blocking sunglasses, since the eyes can also be damaged.

Remember, the sun will still burn when the clouds are out!  Symptoms of the burn may take 4-6 hours to develop.  Although most sunburns are first degree, more severe sunburns can cause second degree burns with blisters.  This can cause long-lasting damage, with future wrinkles and skin cancers.  It is especially bad for children: even one blistering burn may double the lifetime risk of melanoma, the most serious skin cancer.

Treatment is the same as all burns – initial cool soaks, no direct ice, and no further sun exposure.  Remaining in a cool environment can help, as will aloe vera gel application.  Silvadene is not recommended.  Burns draw fluid to the skin surface and away from the body – recommend drinking extra water, juice or sports drinks and watch for signs of dehydration.

Give ibuprofen or naproxen for sunburn, and continue for 48 hours. This reduces swelling and redness that is going to occur, and might prevent some long-term skin damage.

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