We are in the middle of summer and we hope you are all having fun playing outside, swimming and camping. While you enjoy yourselves please take care that you do not get sunburn as the weather is quite hot out there.
Sunburn occurs when the skin is burnt by ultraviolet light (UV) that comes from the sun. This happens when a person stays too long in the sun, and it can also happen on a cloudy day because the UV light can penetrate the cloud.
It is important to avoid sunburn because people who get a lot of sunburns have a higher chance of getting certain conditions like skin cancer, wrinkles and other skin conditions that come with old age, and eye problems called cataracts that affect vision. Most skin cancers can be treated but sunburn increases the risk of getting the severe skin cancer called melanoma.
The chances of getting sunburn are increased in individuals who have pale skin and light-colored hair, live on mountains or places that are close to the equator, or take certain medications. Symptoms of sunburn can occur within 3-5 hours after being in the sun and these are redness, pain, and the skin feels hot when touched.
Severe sunburns can cause blisters, swelling, severe pain and fever.
Treatment of sunburn
Home treatment for sunburn include taking pain medication such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, applying cool compresses to the areas, using lotions containing aloe, and staying out of the sun until the redness and pain have subsided. Should severe sunburn occur, call your doctor or nurse, or take child to the urgent care.
Can sunburn be prevented? Yes, it can. Remember an ounce of prevention is always better than a ton of cure.
- Use broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF ≥ 15 on both sunny and cloudy days.
- Apply enough sunscreen about 1 oz. per sitting for young adult.
- Reapply every 2 hours or after sweating or swimming
- Cover up while in the sun including wearing wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and clothing with tight weave.
- Stay in the shade and limit exposure during peak hours 10am to 4 pm.
- Be extra careful near water, sand or snow as these areas can reflect UV rays.
For infants less than 6 months of age, it is best to avoid sun exposure. Dress infants in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts and broad-brimmed hats that would shade the neck. Apply small amount of sunscreen SPF ≥ 15 to small areas (i.e. around the infant’s face); apply cool compress to areas sunburned.
SPF is a number that says how well the sunscreen protects the skin from UV light. Any number over 15 is good and less than 15 is not recommended. There is no evidence that SPF ≥ 50 offers any advantage. There are 2 types of UV light called UVA and UVB. Sunscreens that protect against both are sometimes called ‘broad spectrum’.
Do not use sunscreen that has expired or is more than 3 years old.
Wearing a lip balm of SPF 30 or greater is protective.
As you go about enjoying the summer, please stay hydrated. This means drinking enough fluids to ensure that you are passing urine as you normally do.
Have a great vacation!
Should you need more information on this subject, ask your doctor.
Michael Okogbo MD, FAAP
Sunburn showing the redness on the area not covered by clothes
Child with severe sunburn. The skin is red, swollen and has blisters