HEALTH AND FITNESS ARTICLES
Sunburn: Minimizing the Risk
— by Jeremy Henricks
No matter what you're doing outdoors during the summer — whether it's hiking, water-skiing, or fishing — you just can't stay away from
the sun. It seems to attack you from all angles during the day, sending your skin into a burning frenzy. At night,
you lie in bed with the ceiling fan on high, hoping that you don't roll over onto your blazing back when dreaming
about tomorrow's adventure.
Almost everyone gets sunburned at least once during his or her life, and some people burn several times during
the year from over exposure to the sun. But what can you do to avoid getting a burn?
The key is to minimize the risk of getting a burn or to avoid the sun, if at all possible. Since it's next to impossible to
avoid the sun while spending time outdoors, we suggest that you use a good sunscreen. Here are a few tips:
- Choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.
An SPF of 15 allows only 1/15 (7%) of the sun's rays to get through, extending safe sun exposure from 20 minutes
to 5 hours without getting a sunburn. An SPF higher than 15 usually protects against sunburn for more than 5 hours.
- Those with fair skin or precancerous skin conditions should use suncreen
with an SPF of 23 or higher.
- For a little extra money, buy sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 60. This
gives you extra protection when you're in the sun all day.
- If you're sensitive to PABA — the active ingredient in most sunscreens
— choose a PABA-free lotion. This is especially suggested for younger children who naturally have more sensitive
- Apply sunscreen about 15 to 20 minutes before heading into the sun.
This gives it time to penetrate the skin. Make sure to pay special attention to the areas most likely to become
sunburned, such as your nose, ears, cheeks, and shoulders.
- Reapply sunscreen every 3 to 4 hours, or immediately after swimming
or sweating profusely. "Waterproof" sunscreens generally stay on for about 30 to 40 minutes in the water.
Here are some other tips:
- Wear a hat. This will cover your face, and, depending on the hat, your
neck and ears. If you're going to be in the sun all day, wear a shirt as well. Remember that water, sand, and snow
increases sun exposure from reflected rays, and the shade from a hat won't protect you.
- Drink plenty of water to replace lost fluid and to prevent dehydration.
- If you happen to get sunburned, there are several products on the market
that will alleviate the pain, such as Americaine, Solarcaine, or generic benzocaine. Aloe vera gel is a tried-and-true
favorite because it soothes the skin, especially after being refrigerated.
- Taking Advil or Tylenol may also ease the pain and help you sleep. However,
please consult a doctor before taking medications of any kind.
Enjoy the summer, and protect your skin.
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