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Beat the heat with sun safety

FRANKLIN LIVING MAY/JUNE 2018 —

With summer approaching, it is important that we remember to protect our body’s largest organ:  our skin. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. However, there are recommendations to help protect you and your family.

Shade. You can reduce your risk of damage to your skin and skin cancer by seeking shade whether it is under an umbrella, tree or other shelter before you need relief from the sun.  Remember that even in the shade, your best bet is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re in the shade.

Clothing. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Tightly woven fabric offers the best protection. A dry T-shirt offers much more protection than a wet one, and darker colors offer more protection than lighter ones. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, wear a T-shirt or beach cover-up and remember to use other types of protection as well.

Hat. For the best protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin. Straw hats with holes let sunlight through, along with those harmful UV rays. If you wear a baseball cap, you should use a sunscreen to protect your ears and the back of your neck.

Sunglasses. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays as well as reduce the risk of cataracts.  They also protect the tender skin around your eyes. Most sunglasses sold in the US, despite the cost, block both UVA and UVB rays and offer the best protection.

Sunscreen. You should always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 when going outside, even on cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on any exposed skin. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.

Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting or scattering sunlight.  All products do not have the same ingredients.  If your skin reacts badly to one product, consult your doctor and try another product.

SPF, or sun protection factor, is a number assigned to sunscreens to rate their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection.  You should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15. Don’t forget, sunscreen wears off, so reapply if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.

Sunburn 

When measures aren’t taken to prevent harmful overexposure to the sun, sunburn is a common outcome. Sunburn is not immediately apparent. Symptoms usually start in about four hours, worsen in 24-36 hours and resolve in three days.

In addition to skin, eyes can become sunburned.  Sunburned Eyes become red, dry, painful, and feel gritty. Chronic eye exposure can cause permanent damage, including blindness.

When experiencing sunburn, here are a few tips to help in relief and recovery:

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache and fever.
  • Drink plenty of water to help replace fluid losses.
  • Comfort burns with cool baths or the gentle application of cool wet cloths.
  • Avoid further exposure until the burn has resolved.
  • Use of a topical moisturizing cream, aloe or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream may provide additional relief.
  • Do not break blisters. This slows healing and increases risk of infection.
  • When blisters do break, remove skin fragments and apply an ointment or hydrocortisone cream.

Seek medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • Severe sunburns
  • Dehydration
  • High fever, higher than 101
  • Extreme pain that persists for longer than 48 hours

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. The most common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Symptoms or indicators of skin cancer include:

  • Irregular borders on moles (ragged, notched or blurred edges)
  • Moles that are not symmetrical (one half doesn’t match the other)
  • Colors that are not uniform throughout
  • Moles that are bigger than a pencil eraser
  • Itchy or painful moles
  • New moles
  • Sores that bleed and do not heal
  • Red patches or lumps

If you have any suspicious moles or spots, see a physician immediately.

 


Courtesy of Sherry Jolley, Red Bay Hospital

Photo by Christopher Webb

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