Many people find it impossible to think about summer without conjuring visions of spending endless hours outdoors from morning until evening, whether beachside, on the open water or even floating in a backyard pool. Although a certain measure of sun exposure is required for some natural functions of the body, it’s well documented that too much time in the sun can be hazardous to one’s health. That’s why summer frolickers need to exercise considerable caution each time they step outside.
Taking sunburn for granted can be a big mistake. Many people wouldn’t risk burns from a hot stove or open fire, but they won’t think twice about being unprotected under the very hot rays of the sun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than one-third of adults and nearly 70 percent of children admit to suffering from sunburn within the past year.
Depending on the intensity of the sun and the amount of time spent outside, sunburn can be a first- or second-degree burn. In first-degree burns, damage affects the topmost layer of skin. However, sunburn can even affect deeper layers and cause blistering in addition to redness and pain.
Sunburn also can cause some irreparable damage that goes unseen. According to WebMD, ultraviolet light from the sun can alter DNA, prematurely aging skin or even contributing to skin cancers. It can take years before symptoms become noticeable. Therefore, it is best for people of all ages to exercise caution when spending time in the sun.
Sunburn is one of the most easily prevented summertime ailments. It’s also important to note that sunburns are not just limited to the hot weather or when it is sunny outside. Ultraviolet damage can occur at any time of the year, and also from artificial UV sources, such as tanning beds. Preventing sunburn is simple.
The Mayo Clinic says the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM, so schedule outdoor activities for other times of day. Otherwise, limit exposure to the sun and take frequent breaks in the shade.
Wear protective clothing that covers the arms and legs. Some outdoor gear is designed to offer sun protection. Tightly woven fabrics tend to help the most.
Apply and reapply sunscreen. Look for products that offer an SPF of 15 or greater. The American Academy of Dermatology actually recommends an SPF of 30 or greater. Make sure the product is broad-spectrum, meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen thoroughly, paying attention to the tops of feet, hands and other places that tend to go untreated. Reapply every two hours or more frequently, if necessary.
Base tans do not protect the skin. Research does not support the habit of getting a tan to prevent subsequent sunburn. Protect the face and eyes by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and highly rated UV protection sunglasses.
The Skin Cancer Foundation says a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns. Use protection, stay hydrated and play it smart to enjoy summer to the fullest.