(Survival manual/6. Medical/e) Skin/Sunburn protection & treatment)
Sunlight is strongest when it is directly above the sky. This is why health professionals advise that a person must avoid the sun between ten o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon. A marathon conducted at exactly twelve noon not only plays havoc on the skin, but also causes heat stroke and dehydration.
If going out in the sun is unavoidable during such hours, a person should wear protective clothing. Protective clothing can reduce the skin’s exposure to sunlight. Long pants protect the legs. Long-sleeved shirts protect the arms. And broad-brimmed hats can protect the face, especially the eyes. Umbrellas are also effective tools in reducing sun exposure.
Seven Tips for Treating a Sunburn at Home
A sunburn is an actual burn of your skin from the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or other UV light sources (ie tanning beds). A sunburn can occur from as little as 15 minutes of midday sun exposure in a very light-skinned person.
The first signs of a sunburn may not appear for a few hours after the UV exposure. Sunburns may often appear “worse” the day after being at the beach, as it can take 24 hours or longer for the full effect of the UV damage to your skin to appear.
Sunburned skin is red and tender skin that is warm to the touch. Severe sunburned skin may result in the formation of blisters. Almost all sunburned skin will result in skin peeling on the burned areas several days after the sunburn.
It is always best to PREVENT sunburns, but when the sunburn occurs use these seven tips for comfort and healing:
- Take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprophen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin. Do NOT give aspirin to children. These help decrease the inflammation and reduce the amount of redness and pain. The pain from a sunburn is usually worst between 6 and 48 hours after sun exposure.
- If your skin is not blistering, moisturizing cream may be applied to relieve discomfort. Store the moisturizing cream in the refrigerator between applications as the coolness will aid in comfort to your skin.
- Apply cool compresses to the burned skin. Cold wash clothes work well.
- Avoid hot showers or bathes. Take a luke warm bath instead. If there is no blistering of the skin, consider adding Aveeno Collodial Oatmeal to the bath water. It will aid in anti-inflammatory relief and act as a moisturizer for your skin.
- Avoid any additional sun or UV light exposure while your sunburn is healing. Clothing is better than protection while healing – long sleeves, hats, etc.
- Avoid products that contain benzocaine and lidocaine. They may actually create more itching and inflammation by causing an allergic contact dermatitis.
- If your sunburned skin develops blisters, resist the urge to pop them. The blister cover is actually protecting your raw skin underneath.
Most organizations recommend using sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50 (SPF ratings higher than 50 have not been proven to be more effective than SPF 50). A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 protects against about 93 percent of UVB rays, and one with an SPF of 30 protects against 97 percent of rays, according to the Mayo Clinic. No SPF can block 100% of UV rays.
Because some UV radiation still gets through the sunscreen and into your skin, the SPF number refers to roughly how long it will take for a person’s skin to turn red. Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will prevent your skin from getting red for approximately 15 times longer than usual (so if you start to burn in 10 minutes, sunscreen with SPF 15 will prevent burning for about 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours), according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The UV (Ultraviolet) Index
The UV Index scale used in the United States conforms with international guidelines for UVI reporting established by the World Health Organization. What follows is a description of each UV Index level and tips to help you avoid harmful exposure to UV radiation.
** You can sign up for the free, daily EPA (Environmental Protection Agency’s UV Index alert e-mail for your zip code, at: https://enviroflash.epa.gov/uv/Subscriber.do?method=start
2 or less: Low
A UV Index reading of 2 or less means low danger from the sun’s UV rays for the average person:
• Wear sunglasses on bright days. In winter, reflection off snow can nearly double UV strength.
• If you burn easily, cover up and use sunscreen.
Look Out Below: Snow and water can reflect the sun’s rays. Skiers and swimmers should take special care. Wear sunglasses or goggles, and apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Remember to protect areas that could be exposed to UV rays by the sun’s reflection, including under the chin and nose.
3 – 5: Moderate
A UV Index reading of 3 to 5 means moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.
• Take precautions, such as covering up, if you will be outside.
• Stay in shade near midday when the sun is strongest.
Me and My Shadow: An easy way to tell how much UV exposure you are getting is to look for your shadow: If your shadow is taller than you are (in the early morning and late afternoon), your UV exposure is likely to be low. If your shadow is shorter than you are (around midday), you are being exposed to high levels of UV radiation. Seek shade and protect your skin and eyes.
6 – 7: High
A UV Index reading of 6 to 7 means high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Apply a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15. Wear a wide-brim hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
• Protection against sunburn is needed.
• Reduce time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Cover up, wear a hat and sunglasses, and use sunscreen.
Made in the Shades: Wearing sunglasses protects the lids of your eyes as well as the lens.
8 – 10: Very High
A UV Index reading of 8 to 10 means very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Minimize sun exposure during midday hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Protect yourself by liberally applying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses to protect the eyes.
• Take extra precautions. Unprotected skin will be damaged and can burn quickly.
• Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m; seek shade, cover up, wear a hat and sunglasses, and use sunscreen.
Stay in the Game: Be careful during routine outdoor activities such as gardening or playing sports. Remember that UV exposure is especially strong if you are working or playing between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Don’t forget that spectators, as well as participants, need to wear sunscreen and eye protection to avoid too much sun.
A UV Index reading of 11 or higher means extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Try to avoid sun exposure during midday hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 liberally every 2 hours.
• Take all precautions. Unprotected skin can burn in minutes. Beachgoers should know that white sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and will increase UV exposure.
• Try to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Seek shade, cover up, wear a hat and sunglasses, and use sunscreen.
Beat the Heat: It is possible to go outside when the UV Index is 11 or higher. Make sure you always seek shade, wear a hat, cover up, wear 99-100% UV-blocking sunglasses, and use sunscreen. Or you can opt to stay indoors and take the opportunity to relax with a good book rather than risk dangerous levels of sun exposure