HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated today “Don’t Fry Day,” to encourage sun safety awareness.  Because it’s also Memorial Day weekend, meaning a lot of us will be spending time outdoors, it’s a good time for some friendly reminders about protecting your skin from the sun.

Skin cancer is on the rise in the United States, with more than 68,000 new cases of malignant melanoma expected to be diagnosed this year.  It’s among the most easily preventable of cancers, and yet many people simply ignore the steps involved in lowering their risk.  It’s easy to protect yourself from skin cancer: just remember that if you’re going to be spending an extended period of time outside, wear sunscreen.  Regardless of skin tone or ethnicity, everyone is vulnerable to damaging UV rays, and sunscreen helps to minimize that damage.  Sunscreen should have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 or higher for effectiveness, and should be applied to all exposed skin, including the tops of the feet, the nose, the tips of the ears and the scalp.  Those with fair skin or who are especially susceptible to sunburn should wear sunblock, which has an SPF of 50 or higher.  Make sure to reapply if you’re going to be swimming or are sweating, as not all sunscreens and sunblocks are waterproof.

Further precautions can be taken by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap and sunglasses, and by staying in the shade whenever possible.  If you do get a sunburn, don’t panic.  It’s not likely that one sunburn will cause skin cancer, but it can be very painful! Sunburn can be treated by taking a cool shower or bath, then applying aloe gel, a topical anesthetic such as Solarcaine, cooling skin creams like Noxzema or even plain old white vinegar to the afflicted area (avoid this if the skin is broken or blistered).  Take some aspirin, wear loose fitting, light fabric clothing and try to avoid rubbing the burned area against anything.  Sun poisoning, a more severe form of sunburn that can cause swelling, fever, nausea and dehydration, may require medical treatment.

The sun does us more good than harm, so there’s no need to hide from it in fear.  Take five minutes to put on some sunscreen before you go out, and it will save you a lifetime of skin damage and discomfort.  Be safe, and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Gena Radcliffe

Medex Supply Blogger

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