Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Summer is here and this is the time for sunburn because people are so happy to be on vacation or out in the sun, they underestimate how much sun their sensitive skin can tolerate.  Sunburn is caused by UV radiation actually burning and damaging the cells of the skin.  While fair skin is more likely to burn, even people with darker skin can be easily sunburned if they are getting sun during the hottest part of the day from 10AM to 3PM.  The best way to treat a sunburn is to prevent it from even happening.

Prevention:  Wear large hats and loose long sleeve clothing.   Apply sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection.  The FDA has just announced regulations that will require protective sunscreen to say "broad spectrum" on the label to show it protects against both types of rays.  Also look for the words "water resistant" and a statement about the amount of minutes the product is resistant.  The old labels that claimed waterproof or sweat proof just didn't hold up.  Choose a sun protection factor  (SPF)  of 25 or more but understand that anything over 50 has not been proven to be of higher value.   Finally, even high SPF sunscreens will not protect you from dangerous burns.  The amount of time you can spend in the sun is incremental and sunscreen must be reapplied frequently.

Babies and toddlers cannot tolerate sun. (think of their soft, soft skin)  It kills me to see kids in strollers with sun beating down on them.  Little ones need shade and protection.

Treatment:   Severe cases of sunburn are really sun poisoning.  If you have chills and large water blistering you have serious skin damage.  Even mild sunburn results in skin redness and irritation.  Peak effects of sunburn are noted at about 12-24 hours after exposure.  Severe pain, blistering, nausea, vomiting or fainting require medical attention.

For mild sunburn, cool compresses will help on the area. Blisters are a sign of a 2nd degree sunburn and raw dermis is underneath the blister.  Avoid popping blisters or rubbing the skin. Aloe based lotions can cool the skin and help healing.  Aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications and drinking lots of fluid will help with pain. 

 A sunburn  will heal in about a week but the damage to the epidermis lasts a lifetime.   This slideshow shows the damage to the skin from sun exposure.


Anonymous said...

Great information about sunburn and so timely. I got a severe sunburn once and that part of my skin still looks different and thicker with a tough texture. We used to just bake in the sun when I was growing up and never understood that sun could be damaging. I hope young folks get it now.

Unknown said...

Because I have darker skin, I don't use sunscreen on a regular basis. Thanks for reminding me that the sun can't be haggled with and will burn me just as easily as someone with fair skin. I will be sure to lather up this summer. Love your blog.


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