Sun ... and the Summer Rays

Summer has arrived. While this means long fun-filled days for many, too much of a good thing can be bad. Prolonged sun exposure causes sunburn.

Sunburn is a painful experience and results when the skin is exposed excessively to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Skin damage from a sunburn may be minimal and show up as only a mild redness that rapidly resolves or be so severe as to cause blisters with fluid accumulation and peeling of large areas of skin. In short, anywhere from a first to a third degree burn can occur!

Recurrent prolonged sun exposure is a known cause of premature aging of the skin and of skin cancer.

Sunburn and, hopefully, skin cancer can be avoided by:

  • Limiting the amount of time of sun exposure.
  • Avoiding the worst sun hours -- from late morning to early afternoon (10 o'clock to 2).
  • Wearing hats and protective clothing.
  • Being aware that sunburn can occur even on a cloudy day (clouds don't stop the ultraviolet rays).
  • Knowing that sunburn can occur even when you are in the water.
  • Remembering that sand reflects the sun rays and increases the chance of burning.
Sunscreens with a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 are recommended for most people. Some dermatologists are recommending the use of sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before going into the sun and reapplied often. Don't forget that lips get sunburned, too. So, apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen, also preferably with an SPF of 15 or higher.

For more information, see our Burns Center and article, "Sun Protection: Kids At The Beach."

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Last Editorial Review: 4/15/2002