Dealing with Sunburn this Summer Season
Despite frequent health warnings about the damaging effects excessive sun exposure can have, many people still subject their skin to sunburns
every summer. Considering that long-term sun exposure can cause various types of melanoma, it’s surprising to find that over one-third of all adults and approximately 70 percent of children admit to having received a sunburn within the last year, according to a survey conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Statistics from the CDC also show that number of men and women diagnosed with skin cancer increased significantly between 1999 and 2008, with more men dying from the disease than women.
Knowing how to keep your skin cool and safe during the summer months can help lower your risk of skin cancer, while also providing you relief from painful burns.
Causes of Sunburn
Very little mystery exists about what causes a sunburn. Exposing your skin to the sun for an extended period of time eventually causes it to burn, turn red, and become irritated. However, what happens under your skin is far more complex.
The sun sends out two types of ultraviolet light that reaches earth: UVA and UVB. These types of ultraviolet light penetrate your skin and can potentially change your DNA and prematurely age your skin. Given enough time, and the damage done to your DNA can lead to the development of skin cancers and other deadly melanoma.
How soon your skin starts to burn while out in the sun depends on several factors: your skin type, the intensity of the sun that day, and how long you were out in the sun. For example, someone with fair skin sunbathing in Dallas will begin turning redder much quicker than a person with a darker complexion sitting out on a sunny day in Portland.
When you develop a sunburn, your skin will begin to feel flush, turn red, and hurt. In severe cases of sunburn, you can also experience blisters, nausea, headaches, chills, and other flu-like symptoms. Several days later, your skin might start to peel and feel itchy as your body attempts to rid itself of the sun-damaged cells.
Early detection of cancerous melanomas is key for treating the disease and preventing it from spreading. Small, scaly patches that appear on the skin due to sun exposure can be an early warning sign of skin cancer, as can the appearance of moles on areas of the skin where no mole existed before. You should consult with your doctor if you notice any unusual blemishes on your skin.
The best sunburn treatments are designed to deal with the burn on multiple fronts, and should relieve redness, while also easing pain. A few minor home remedies include:
- Applying a cold compress to burn areas or taking a cool bath to help sooth the skin.
- Rubbing creams or gels that use menthol, camphor, and aloe on affected areas can help take the sting out of a sunburn, while also providing a cooling sensation.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce swelling and body pains caused by sunburns.
Avoid heading back out in the sun until your burn heals. Getting a sunburn makes you more susceptible to sun exposure, not less, and more exposure to the sun will only make your burn worse.
Timothy Lemke blogs about summer health topics for Dr. Robert McDowell, a dentist in Clackamas OR.
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