Ouch! Are you hurting after a day at the beach? Researchers at King’s College in London have discovered the reason why sunburn is so painful.  A study of sunburned skin on healthy people revealed that CXCLS, a group of proteins that draw immune cells to damaged tissue, is the culprit, triggered by UV radiation.  The proteins cause the tissue to become inflamed and sensitive, leading to that stinging, sore sensation we’re all familiar with after spending too much time in the sun.

At least half of Americans can expect to get at least a minor sunburn this summer.  Though it’s well known at this point that excessive tanning and sunburns can lead to premature wrinkling and age spots, as well as significantly increase the chance of developing skin cancer, many people simply do not take proper precautions to protect themselves from UV rays.  Peak hours for sunlight are between 10am and 4pm—if you’re planning on spending time outside during that time, even for just an hour or so, it’s a good idea to use sunblock with an SPF of at least 30, or higher if you’re fair-skinned.  Make sure to cover all exposed skin, including the back of the neck and ears, and consider wearing a hat and sunglasses, as the scalp and eyes are especially vulnerable.

Tanning beds are still extremely popular, especially with women ages 18 to 25.  However, physicians are calling for more awareness of their hazards, even suggesting that it be made illegal for girls under age 18 to use them.   For a healthier way to obtain a sun-kissed glow, many salons offer tanning spray, which contain chemicals that safely react to amino acids in the skin.  Tanning sprays offer instant results without harmful UV rays, but can sometimes create an artificial, orange tone in users, particularly those with very fair skin.  Cosmetics and skincare companies also sell over the counter tanning sprays, creams and foams that can be purchased for home use and offer the same results, though more gradually than salon sprays.

If your skin skips tanning and goes right to burning, there are a few home remedies you can try to relieve pain and discomfort.  A cool bath or shower followed by a dose of aspirin helps, as does applying white vinegar or aloe vera gel to the afflicted area (avoid if the skin is broken).  If you’re sunburned in an area that may be irritated by clothing, such as the shoulders, try dusting with corn starch to keep bra straps and shirt sleeves from chafing.  If the affected skin is blistered or swollen, or if you have a headache, fever or nausea, medical treatment may be necessary, as you may be suffering from “sun poisoning,” a more serious form of sunburn.

Don’t be afraid of the sun! We need it for good health.  Just be safe and remember that there’s more to life than getting a perfect tan.

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger

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