The worst sunburn I ever experienced was from laying out on an overcast day. I laid out an extra long time thinking I couldn’t be getting much of a tan given the day’s conditions. That seemed especially true since at the time I noticed hardly any color change to my skin. Boy was I mistaken. Soon after getting home, my skin appeared bright red, and the pain set in. It was so bad I was unable to wear clothes and called in sick for two days.
Aside from the misery of a sunburn, and yes, the symptoms can be even worse and more serious than my experience, there are other important reasons to take extra precautions especially during the hot summer months.
The risk of skin cancer is the most widely recognized problem resulting from exposure to the sun. To reduce the risk, avoid afternoon sun. When going out in the sun, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher fifteen minutes beforehand and then every two hours. Look for products carrying the Skin Cancer Foundation’s blue seal of approval. It’s also a smart idea to wear clothing that covers arms and legs and a hat to shade your face.
The sun’s rays also cause damage to our eyes. Exposure can cause cataracts and damage part of the retina, the cornea, and the lens. Cheryl Khanna, M.D. of Mayo Clinic recommends wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Wrap around or close fitting glasses are the best designs to block out as much UV rays as possible.
During warmer months, the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion also increases. It’s important to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water everyday of the year, but especially during warmer months. If you will be in the sun or heat for any length of time, take plenty of water or sports drinks filled with electrolytes. Try to restrict physical activity outdoors to cooler parts of the day.
Special Considerations for Babies
Sun exposure also increases the risk of cancer to children, and especially babies due to their sensitive skin. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a sunburn on a baby can be much more serious and result in high fever, dehydration, blistering, and heat stroke.
Keep babies out of direct sun from 10am to 4pm. Dress them in lightweight clothing that fully covers their bodies and hats or sun bonnets with 4” brims. For travel, place babies in the center position of the back seat, or cover windows with UV-blocking film. Finally, to keep infants and young children hydrated, carry Pedialyte, which is an excellent source of electrolytes.