Did you know that getting a sunburn as infrequently as twice per year can significantly increase your chances of getting skin cancer? In fact, it can triple your risk, according to the Cancer Research UK and Harper’s Bazaar.
Even limited sun exposure and minor problems can spell big trouble for your long-term health. Learn how to prevent sunburn and stave off serious health problems that start by getting too much sun.
Don’t Believe Common Sunburn Myths
Family practice physicians see it all the time. The dangers of the sun are frequently underestimated. Many Americans believe that the occasional sunburn, even severe ones, are not a problem. That is simply not true. Learn to pick out misinformation. Here are the top sun-related myths busted:
- You cannot get a sunburn on a cloudy day. It is possible to get a sunburn on a cloudy day or while lounging in the shade. “Not only can you burn when it’s cloudy — you might get an even worse sunburn, as it is unlikely you will realize how powerful the UV rays are,” Harper’s Bazaar writes. A surprising 80% of UV rays penetrate clouds, meaning that you are only slightly less likely to burn on a cloudy day.Similarly, even if you are under cover like an umbrella or a tree, it is still possible to get a sunburn. The sun’s rays can reflect off nearby surfaces. Those rays are powerful enough to give you a sunburn, sun damage, or even — with enough time — sun poisoning.
- One or two applications are plenty. Depending on how you are spending your day, a single application of sunscreen may not be enough. The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) recommends applying sunscreen 30 minutes before venturing out into the sun and reapplying every two hours that you stay outside in the sun. If you sweat excessively or go swimming, reapply sunscreen right away.
- If you have tan or dark skin, you can skip the sunscreen. People with fair skin are at most risk of skin cancer. That does not mean that people with black or brown skin can skip it altogether. It is important to apply sunscreen no matter what. Plus, keep in mind that, even if you have a “base tan,” sunscreen is still important. If your skin is normally Caucasian or fair, a golden brown tan is actually an indication of at least some sun damage. Continue applying sunscreen as necessary.
Prevent Damaging Sun Exposure
Fall is just around the corner. With any luck, extremely hot temperatures and abnormally high UV indexes are behind us. Still, it is necessary to take precautions.
Prevent sunburn and sun poisoning before they warrant a trip to urgent care clinics. Wear sunscreen. Reapply as necessary. Cover up. The more clothing you wear while in direct sunlight, the better. Wear a hat to prevent especially sensitive areas, like your face, ears, and scalp, from burning.
Should you treat sunburns at home or visit nearby urgent care clinics? The answer depends on the severity of your symptoms. If your sunburn or sun damage is relatively mild, start by treating the affected area with the usual treatments. Apply aloe or treat with cold water, ice, or ice packs. Avoid harsh soaps that can dry out your skin. Drink water and/or sports drinks with electrolytes to stay hydrated.
Sunburn warrants a trip to a local urgent care clinic or a trusted medical professional if you experience fever, chills, confusion, and/or significant blistering. Pus and red streaks are signs of a serious infection. Even one severe sunburn or one instance of infection or sun poisoning can have an impact on your long-term health. While it is always best to see a doctor if necessary, when it comes to the sun, it is best to take preventative action if at all possible.
Sunburns, sun damage, and sun poisoning are serious. In fact, they have the potential to significantly increase your risk of getting cancer. Be proactive. Cover up, wear sunscreen, and stay out of the sun during peak hours. If you have signs of severe sun damage, like fever, chills, or blistering, do not hesitate to visit your local urgent care clinic.