Well, it is that time of year again, summer. With the warmer weather, most people will be enjoying an increase in outdoor activities such as baseball games, gardening, and swimming. As we spend more time outside, we increase our exposure to ultraviolet radiation. If the proper precautions aren’t taken, this increased exposure to UV rays can lead to the unfortunate consequence of sunburn. The CDC reported that over 43% of adults have had a sunburn in the past year.
So you may be asking yourself, “What is the big deal about a little sunburn?” A sunburn is the skin reddening caused by overexposure to the harmful ultraviolet radiation which can come from the sun or from artificial sources like a sun lamp. There are three wavelengths of light given off by the sun UVA, UVB, and UVC. The UVC never reaches the earth, but the UVA and UVB both reach the earth and are able to penetrate skin and cause skin damage. The obvious sign of exposure is red skin, but under the surface of the skin the UV radiation can alter DNA, and prematurely ages the skin. Overtime DNA damage can lead to skin cancers.
How do you prevent a sunburn? Stay out of the sun from 10 am to 4 pm this is when the sun is the strongest. Wear wide brim hats to protect your face, and sunglasses with UV protection to prevent eye damage. Wear clothing made with sun protective fabric, most of these garments will have a special label that indicates the level of UV protection. And last but not least, the American Dermatology association recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 or greater. Apply sunscreen generously and frequently, at least every two hours.
Although prevention is the best method to prevent skin damage, as the CDC reported, at least 43% of adults suffered from a sunburn in the last year. So what should you do to treat your sunburn? Take frequent cool baths to help cool the skin, then use a moisturizer after to help trap water in your skin. You can use a lotion with aloe vera or soy to help soothe the skin. Drink plenty of water and take ibuprofen or aspirin to help decrease inflammation. You should protect any sunburned skin from additional sun exposure while it heals.
Enjoy your time outside while the weather is nice, but be mindful of protecting your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Take precautions to prevent sunburn and skin damage.
Amy Buford is a native of Louisiana. She received her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans. She graduated from LSU Medical School in New Orleans, and did her training in Emergency Medicine at UT Houston at Hermann Memorial Hospital in the Medical Center. She is board certified in Emergency Medicine. She currently lives in the Houston area and is active in the community.