When it's 100º plus, sun safety goes without say

Thursday, June 28, 2018

We hope you’re making sure your pets have plenty of water and shade these days when the temperatures are in the triple digits.

The same goes for you if you have to spend any length of time outdoors. A lot of construction workers and others know that it’s smart to get started in the cool of the morning to allow a break in the heat of the day.

But summer is short, and when temperatures moderate, it’s tempting to head for the lake and work on our tans.

Better think twice about that, says Dr. Christopher Huerter, professor of medicine and chief of dermatology at Creighton University School of Medicine.

That “healthy tan” isn’t really all that healthy, Huerter contends. Besides wrinkling and pigment changes, too much exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer, the most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

And it doesn’t necessarily take hours to get a dangerous sunburn, Huerter said. It can occur in as little as five or 10 minutes, depending on a person’s complexion.

The noon hour is the most dangerous time to be in the sun, and you can even get in trouble on cloudy days or in the early spring, when you’re not thinking about sun protection yet. The same goes for winter ski outings, especially on sunny days with reflecting snow.

To protect yourself, make sunscreen a habit to protect your body’s largest organ, your skin. It should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplied often, especially after swimming or sweating.

All sunscreens work fairly well, Huerter said, and SPF 30 or 50 is only adequate if applied perfectly and reapplied as directed. Consider a higher SPF for more consistent protection.

Better yet, seek shade and wear light clothing that covers most of your skin if you’re spending a lot of time in the sun.

If you do overdo it, you may not notice how bad it is for 24 hours. As soon as you feel the tingle, slow it down with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Aleve or Advil. Apply cold compresses, aloe or moisturizing cream to the affected skin. Avoid products containing alcohol, which can dry out the skin

Definitely see a doctor if your sunburn includes a fever and chills. You might even need hydration through IV fluids and oral steroid therapy.

You probably get enough Vitamin D through ordinary sun exposure, and if not, oral supplements are cheap and widely available.

Huerter says tanning beds are never OK, and the most rapidly expanding group of melanoma patients is young women who have used them.

Drinking about four cups of coffee a day, on the other hand, could decrease your risk of getting melanoma by 20 percent, and eating carrots can help because of the beta-carotene they contain. Beta carotene can make people less sensitive to the sun and less likely to burn.

Take care of your skin and it will take care of you for a long time.

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