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Getting a sunburn is no picnic, even if that’s when you got your latest patch of sunburn. Not only are sunburns painful but they can also be dangerous to your health! It’s important to implement certain sun-safety practices so that you can reduce your risk of getting sunburned when spending prolonged periods of time in the sun. Here are the dangers of sunburns and what you can do to avoid them.

Why is Sunburn Dangerous?

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First thing’s first:

It’s not the actual sunburn that’s dangerous, it’s the amount of radiation that you were exposed to that caused the sunburn that you should be worried about.

The skin absorbs ultraviolet radiation from sunlight which damages the genetic material in skin cells. So, it’s the radiation buildup and not necessarily the sunburn itself that presents the real danger.

That means you may not even feel particularly burned and yet could still be at increased risk of UV radiation without protective sunblock or extra layers. Since the sunburn and the amount of radiation you absorb aren’t positively correlated, this means the real danger of sunburn–skin cancer–is all the more worrisome.

Did you know…

Even a single sunburn can increase your risk of getting skin cancer?

Ultimately, a lot of sunburns over the course of your life will compound the damage done to your skin cells and increase your risk of skin cancer and melanoma.

Sunburns early in life are actually associated with a higher risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.

That’s why it’s so important that you cover your kids up with clothing and sunscreen when they go outside.

The American Association for Cancer Research found that women that got five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 were 80% more likely to develop melanoma in the course of their lifetime.[1]

Sunburns later in life do not increase your risk of skin cancer as much because there isn’t as much time for the sun’s radiation to cause lasting damage to your skin. Hence, early sunburn protection is key to protecting the body later in life from the effects of harmful UV rays.

The Best Ways to Prevent Sunburns

There are plenty of effective ways to prevent and protect against getting sunburnt.

These precautions are good to have on hand to lower the chances of getting sunburned and simultaneously reducing the likelihood of developing skin cancer as a result.

 

Slip, Slop, Slap

A skin protection initiative was launched in 1980 that promoted the “Slip, slop, slap” method of skin-cancer prevention.

The idea is to slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

Apparently, dermatologists say that this method is just as relevant today as it was in 1980.

Professionals recommend using a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 or greater. Sunscreen with at least SPF 30 does a significantly better job at reducing the number of sunburns than a sunscreen with a lower SPF does.

Broad spectrum sunscreens are best for preventing sunburns overall. This means that the sunscreen will protect against UVA and UVB rays instead of just one or the other, doubling your protection.

Don’t Forget

Reapply sunscreen after you’ve been in the sun for a few hours.

It’s also best to reapply sunscreen after you’ve towel-dried yourself. Towel drying can wipe off a lot of sunscreens your skin has yet to absorb.

Make sure you put sunscreen on even the most overcast of days. A good deal of damaging UV rays are still present despite the clouds, and it doesn’t take direct or concentrated exposure to get sunburned.

For that reason, sunburns aren’t exclusively a byproduct of summertime.

A lot of cases have happened in the winter, especially for skiers and snowboarders. The light’s reflection off of the snow has an amplifying effect on UV rays, which can make sunburn not only possible in the winter, but potentially worse.

Slipping on a shirt will help to minimize your skin’s exposure to sun damage.

Many swim shirts are even designed with added protection against UV rays with SPF.

Luckily…

You don’t have to have a swim shirt to keep your torso protected. In fact, any kind of shirt will reduce the amount of exposure your skin has to the sun just by creating a barrier between the UV rays and your skin. It’s why clothing like shirts and hats are so effective at reducing the risk of sunburn. They keep you covered up!

Remember:

Shirts with a tight weave are best for skin protection.

Slapping on a broad-brimmed sun hat can protect your scalp and eyes from sun damage. A lot of people tend to forget that the top of their head is also at risk for sunburn since the scalp appears hidden beneath the hair.

A hat can shade your eyes and head from harmful UV rays.

Seek Shade

Being in the sun isn’t bad.

In fact:

Our bodies need sunlight for Vitamin D exposure.  However, the amount of sunlight you expose yourself to can be a problem if left unchecked.

Seek shade after a couple of hours in the sun to give your skin a break. Find a nice tree, bring a shade tent or an umbrella to help get some relief from the sun.

Staying in the shade not only helps to cool your body down but will keep you protected from the sun, giving it a much-needed break from damaging UV rays.

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Avoid Tanning Beds

Doctors are telling their patients to avoid tanning beds.

Tanning beds cause a lot of skin damage and can also raise your risk of skin cancer.

Many people also get sunburned from using indoor tanning beds, even when used properly or for short amounts of time.

Get this:

Some states have passed laws that make it illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning beds because of the threat they pose to your skin.

There are now 18 states total that ban the use of tanning

beds for minors.

Treating Sunburns

You’ll want some pain relief when you’re treating sunburns and there are more than a few ways to go about it.

There are some medications that you can take to help with pain, or you can try some home remedies for treating sunburns .

Leave Blisters Alone

Popping blisters increases your chances of getting an infection!

Do your best to leave the blisters alone and let them heal on their own. They may become large and painful, but it’s best to avoid touching them.

Drink Extra Water

Sunburns can lead to dehydration.

Drink extra water to prevent the problem from becoming worse. You may have to go to the bathroom more frequently but your sunburn will heal faster and you won’t be dehydrated.

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Take Over the Counter Pain Medication

See if you can take some Ibuprofen or Tylenol if your pain is really severe.

You should be able to feel some temporary relief. Make sure you take the appropriate amount and only take more after the correct amount of time has passed.

Go to the Doctor if You Feel Sick

Go to the doctor if you start to feel dizzy, weak, nauseous, or cold.

These symptoms might be an indication of dehydration and that you need medical attention.

The Bottom Line

This information isn’t meant to make you stay inside all summer or fear the sun.

Far from it!

Just make sure you take some extra precautions to prevent sunburns, thereby decreasing the risk of developing skin cancer.

You won’t be sorry that you took a little extra time to reapply sunscreen to avoid a painful sunburn after having some fun in the sun.

References

http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/indoor-tanning-restrictions.aspx

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/heres-how-much-damage-a-really-bad-sunburn-can-do#3

https://www.psico.com/sensitive-skin-care/articles/best-ways-avoid-getting-sunburn/

https://www.aad.org/public/kids/skin/skin-cancer/treating-sunburn

https://www.dermstore.com/blog/top_ten/home-remedies-sunburn/

https://www.medicinenet.com/natural_home_remedies_for_sunburn_treatment/article.htm

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