Sunburn can surely be uncomfortable, but the discomfort is not the only issue or even the main issue that results from getting a sunburn. If you’ve been reading our series on sun protection (see Parts 1 & 2), you already know that it’s important to avoid sunburns in order to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer. Each sunburn can significantly raise the probability of getting melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Thankfully, though, sunburn is usually completely avoidable, unlike many other factors that increase the risk of getting cancer! With a little bit of knowledge, you can reduce the likelihood that you or someone you care about may suffer from a severe condition as a result of getting burnt by the sun. In light of that, there are a few things which you need to be aware of.
Identify the Causes of Sunburn
What brings on sunburns? Of course, the sun, but let’s be more explicit. Actually, it’s the sun’s ultraviolet (or UV) radiation, not the heat of the sun. A staggering 80% of these rays, some of which fall under the UVA and UVB categories, can actually even enter water. The UV Index (which will vary significantly depending on where you are in the world, the season, and the time of day) provides a daily prediction of the expected intensity of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Unprotected skin is particularly susceptible to sunburn when and where the UV index is high.
Learn the Reality about Sunburn
Sometimes we can adopt a casual, I-don’t-care attitude toward sun damage, believing that since we’ve already had a sunburn or, perhaps, gotten a nice sun tan, it doesn’t matter whether we continue to protect or don’t protect our skin. Just as a single unhealthy food will have a greater impact on our bodies if we continue to eat poorly over time, so will continued direct sun exposure without protection. More harm is done to your skin every time it is exposed to direct sunlight while the UV index is high, whether or not a sunburn develops as a result.
Understand the Effects of Sunburn
Simply said, a sunburn is an inflammatory response of the skin’s outer layers to the sun’s UV radiation. By darkening the areas of your skin that are exposed to the sun, melanin (the pigment that acts as a natural barrier against harmful rays) accomplishes its work. The quantity of melanin that naturally exists in your skin is greatly influenced by genetics, but you should be aware that both tanning and burning are signs of cellular damage within your skin.
The severity of sunburns can vary, just like how each person’s skin reacts differently to exposure to the sun. A sunburn can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from a mildly bothersome light pink to a terrible blistering & painful surface skin injury that needs immediate medical attention. As the injured skin cells are removed after a scorching sunburn, the skin will eventually start to peel off.
Consequently, what should you do if you or your child does develop a sunburn? In the final two posts of this series, we’ll answer that question.
Continue reading with Part 4.
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