Basking in the warm glow of the sun can make us feel good and, in the short term, make us look good. But the cumulative effects of sun exposure can put us at higher risk of skin damage, early wrinkling, age spots and skin cancer.

golfer applying sunscreen

The sun produces invisible rays called ultraviolet-A (UVA) or ultraviolet-B (UVB) that can damage  the skin. Too much sun can cause sunburn, rashes, skin texture changes and skin cancers. Even on cloudy days, UV radiation can cause skin damage.

Sunburn is a condition that occurs when the amount of exposure to the sun or another ultraviolet light source – for example, a tanning bed – exceeds the ability of the body’s protective pigment (melanin) to protect the skin. Symptoms of sunburn usually include painful, reddened skin; however,  sunburn may not be immediately visible. By the time the skin starts to become painful and red, the  damage has been done. Pain relievers (such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen), cold compresses, and aloe, hydrocortisone or moisturizing creams may help reduce pain and discomfort.

Severe sunburn may result in swelling and blisters. If blisters form, do not break them – they’re a
source of moisture and protection. Breaking the blisters may lead to infection. Consider seeing
a doctor if you have a blistered sunburn. People who are severely sunburned may also develop a
fever, chills and/or weakness.

Several days after sunburn, people with naturally fair skin may have peeling in the burned areas.
Some itching may occur and the peeled areas are even more sensitive to sunburn for several weeks.

Susceptibility to sunburns is increased in people with:

  • Fair skin
  • Light-colored hair
  • People using certain medications that increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunburn, such as
    NSAIDs, quinolones, tetracy- clines, psoralens, thiazides, furosemide, amiodarone and the
    phenothiazines.

Most people’s skin will burn if there is enough exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, some people burn particularly easily or develop exaggerated skin reactions to sunlight. Tanned skin may be revered as beautiful, but that golden color you see is the result of injury to  the epidermis, the top layer of skin. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerates the  effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer.

More than 80 percent of the signs of skin aging in adults results from their tans as teens. To
prevent sun damage, use a sun- screen of SPF 15 or higher when outdoors. If you have fair skin or burn easily, boost your SPF to 30 or higher. The best way to prevent sunburn, premature wrinkles, skin cancer and other damaging effects from  the sun is to stay out of it as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. when the  sun’s rays are strongest. If you can’t avoid sun exposure, apply sunscreen liberally (don’t forget  the lips and ears!), wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover up with clothing when outdoors. If you notice changes to your skin such as a mole changing appearance, a new growth or a sore that won’t heal, see a doctor right way.

Understanding heat-related illness – the basics

sun infographic

What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?
Parkwest experts state that prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke. As your body  works to cool itself in warmer temperatures, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. As a  result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles and other organs. This can interfere with both your physical strength and your mental capacity, sometimes leading to serious danger.

Heat illness can strike virtually anyone. But the elderly, obese persons and chronic alcoholics are at greater risk, as are individuals taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines or anti-psychotic medications. High humidity also increases the risk of heat illness because it interferes with the evaporation of sweat, which is your body’s way of cooling  itself. Heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke all occur when your body cannot cool itself adequately. But each is slightly different.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Individuals who have heart problems or are on low-sodium diets may be particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion.

As in heat exhaustion, heat cramps can strike when the body loses excessive amounts of fluids and salt. This deficiency, accompanied by the loss of other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, typically occurs during heavy exertion.

Heat stroke, the most serious of the heat-related illnesses, occurs when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. In prolonged extreme heat, the part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature malfunctions. This decreases the body’s ability to sweat and therefore to cool down. Those with certain medical conditions that decrease the body’s ability to sweat may be at greater risk of  developing heat stroke.
Severe heat-related conditions can require emergency treatment. The team at Parkwest
Medical Center is here to take care of you 24/7. Visit TreatedWell.com for more information.

Keep water activities safe: Tips from Parkwest experts

With the onset of summer our thoughts turn to longer days, cook-outs and, of course, water activities. Whether it’s a nearby pool or time  at the lake, the water serves as both a place of enjoyment and cooling down during these  hot months. In order to keep water time safe for you and your loved ones, the Parkwest Medical Center staff recommends following these tips:

  • Never leave a child alone in the water, even if they know how to swim.
    An accident can occur in seconds.
    If you have to leave for any reason, take your child with you.
  • Never swim alone or allow others to do so.
  • Install safety gates around the pool area.
  • Don’t leave toys or other enticing items that may attract children near the pool or lake.
  • When out on the lake, make sure everyone is wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Make sure an adult supervising the area knows CPR
  • Keep rescue equipment nearby in case of emergencies.

With the proper safety measures, time spent in the water can be the most fun for you and your family.