t's spring and time that many of us will be getting outdoors more and more. It's the perfect time of year to start hitting the beaches, taking vacations, and just enjoying the season. Before we grab our shades and beach towels, we should make sure that we're staying safe in the sun and protecting ourselves against the sun's harmful rays.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions that I found online about spending time in the sun, and even in tanning salons.
Does it really matter if I get a sunburn every once in a while?
Yes, it does. The likelihood of developing skin cancer and wrinkles increases with the more sun you get. But even just a few bad sunburns increases the risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
What's the best way to treat sunburn?
It may take up to 24 hours before the full damage of sunburn is visible. The two most common types of burns are first degree burns and second degree burns.
First degree sunburns cause redness and will heal, possibly with some peeling, within a few days. These can be painful and are best treated with cool baths and bland moisturizers or over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams. Taking aspirin may lessen the pain. Avoid the use of "-caine" products (such as benzocaine) which may cause sensitivity.
Second degree sunburns blister and can be considered a medical emergency if a large area is affected. When a burn is severe, accompanied by a headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help right away.
No matter what kind of burn you get, be sure to protect your skin from the sun while it heals and take better precautions in the future.
Is there any way to tell if my skin has been damaged?
If you've tanned or burned, you've already damaged your skin. A burn is a clear sign of damage. A tan, in fact, is the body trying to protect itself from more damage.
If I only tan and don't burn, does that mean I won't get skin cancer?
No. When our skin is damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the skin senses that damage and makes the brown pigment melanin to protect itself from more harm. Melanin blocks the ultraviolet rays from entering the skin.
But to develop a tan, you must damage your skin first. Completely sunless tanning (i.e. tanning lotions and spray tanning) is the only safe way to tan.
Is tanning at indoor salons any safer or better for my skin?
No. Sunlight contains two types of ultraviolet light: UVA and UVB. The UVB is primarily responsible for sunburn. But both types of UV radiation cause wrinkles and skin cancer.
Indoor tanning salons use devices that give off ultraviolet radiation - a mixture of both UVA and UVB that's meant to mimic the sun. So, whether you tan at the beach or in the tanning salon, you're damaging your skin.
For more information about staying safe in the sun, visit The Skin Cancer Foundation's website at www.skincancer.org/prevention.
I know I'll be keeping these tips in mind before I head outside this season. Please use these tips to stay on top of Sun Safety this spring. Feel free to forward this information to your family, friends, and everyone so that they too can stay safe in the sun.