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Summer fun without the burn

Posted on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather, but sunburn can ruin your outdoor adventures._DSC5245

Here are a few hints, collected from medical experts, to help make your time in the sun burn free.


PREVENTION –much better than a cure

One of the best ways to avoid the burn is to minimize exposure to the sun. That doesn’t mean skipping fun in the sun, just being smart when it comes to sun exposure.

Plan to stay indoors or seeking shade when the sun is at its worst, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But also be aware that sunburn and sun damage can occur even on cloudy days or in the shade. Sunburn can occur after as little as 10 -15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure for a fair-skinned person.

Wear clothing for protection

Wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and long pants protect against UV rays. Tightly woven clothing and darker fabrics also provide more protection than lighter color fabrics.

Protect you eyes with sunglasses that provide 100 percent protection against UV radiation.


babyWhen at the beach or when the weather’s just too hot for sleeves, don’t forget the sunscreen, even if you don’t plan to be out that long. Most burns occur when not expected.

The Center for Disease Control’s travelers guide explains that there are basically two types of sunscreen,  physical blockers and chemical absorbers.

Physical sunscreens contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, inorganic molecules that are confined to the stratum corneum and reflect and scatter both visible and UV light. They are effective, broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. With the advent of nanotechnology, these products no longer cause an opaque white film (think surfers with white noses) and have become cosmetically acceptable for widespread use. They are recommended for people who burn easily or who take medications that may cause photosensitivity reactions.

Chemical sunscreens absorb rather than reflect UV radiation. A combination of chemical agents is recommended to provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Although the Food and Drug Administration recommends using sunscreen with greater than 15 SPF, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen with greater than30 SPF. A debate exists as to the value of additional protection provided by sunscreens with SPFs >15. In a controlled environment, the marginal protection provided by these high-SPF sunscreens is only 2–4 perecnt. However, since most people underapply sunscreen, the higher-SPF sunscreens may have a margin of safety and give the user at least an SPF 15 level of protection. Travelers should consider the following key points regarding sunscreens:

Choose a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF to ensure adequate UVB protection.

For UVA protection, look for the following active ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, ecamsule, oxybenzone, dioxybenzone, or sulisobenzone.

Use products that contain both UVA and UVB protection.

Select a waterproof or water-resistant product. Waterproof sunscreens confer approximately 80 minutes of protection in the water, and water-resistant products offer 40 minutes of protection.

Apply to dry skin 15 minutes before exposure to the sun.

Apply Enough

Be sure to get enough on. The CDC suggests that most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen, which decreases the achieved SPF.

At least 1 oz (2 tablespoons or enough to fill a shot glass) of sunscreen is needed to cover the exposed areas of the body.

Apply to all exposed areas, especially the ears, scalp, back of the neck, tops of the feet, and backs of the hands.

Reapply every 2 hours and after sweating, swimming, or towel-drying (even on cloudy days).

Use a lip balm or lipstick with at least 15 SPF.

The Food and Drug Administration requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least 3 years. Always check the expiration date and discard all expired product.

Sunscreens should be applied to the skin before insect repellents. (Note: DEET-containing insect repellents may decrease the SPF of sunscreens by one-third. Sunscreens may increase absorption of DEET through the skin.)

Avoid products that contain both sunscreens and insect repellents, because sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often and in larger amounts than the repellent.

TREATMENT – sometimes life sneaks up on you

When sunburn does sneak up you, be sure to stay hydrated and stay in a cool, shaded, or indoor environment, the CDC advises.

Topical and oral non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, a  decrease redness if used before or soon after exposure to UVB rays and may relieve symptoms such as headache, fever, and local pain.

What to expect

The pain of sunburn is usually most intense from six to 48 hours after sun exposure, and skin usually peels 4–7 days later. Topical steroids are of limited benefit, and systemic steroids appear to be ineffective in alleviating the pain.

Cool compresses, colloidal oatmeal baths, moisturizing creams, and topical aloe vera gel may relieve symptoms. Oral diphenhydramine may relieve itchy skin.

If blisters occur, they should be left intact to promote faster healing. Open blisters should be coated with petrolatum jelly and covered with sterile gauze to decrease the risk of infection.

If infection occurs, oral antibiotics may be necessary. In severe cases of sunburn, dehydration and hypovolemia may occur, presenting with severely inflamed or reddened skin, disorientation, dizziness or fainting, nausea, chills, high fever, and headache.

Hospitalization for intravenous rehydration and narcotic analgesics for pain relief may be required in these extreme cases.