Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

New Jersey is experiencing its first heat wave of the summer season. While it may be easy to dash from home to car to work and back again, there may be times when you’ll be exposed to the sun’s wrath for longer than you’d like.

Like most things, moderation is key. You’ll need to balance your obligations and activities with breaks from the sun and heat. Sunscreens or sunblocks, which protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays, are one of your best weapons against sun damage because they are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. The sun protection factor (SPF) number on a sunscreen shows the level of UVB protection it gives. Sunscreens with a higher SPF number provide greater defense against the sun’s damaging UV rays.

eMedical Urgent Care offers the following tips to keep you safe this week – and throughout the summer.

  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every day, even after the heat wave, on cloudy days and when you don’t plan on spending much time outside. As much as 80% of sun exposure is accidental.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen thickly and frequently. If you’re not sure you’re putting on enough, switch to one with a higher SPF.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 1 ½ to 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Take frequent breaks from the sun. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  During those hours, take breaks to cool off indoors or in the shade for a while before heading out again.
  • Wear a hat with a brim and sunglasses that provide the most protection against ultraviolet radiation.
  • Water is a major reflector of UV radiation, so be sure to apply and reapply sunscreen more often if you are sitting near the water or swimming.
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics used to treat acne and birth control pills, can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Ask your doctor whether your medications might have this effect and what you should do.

Symptoms of Sunburn

  • Red and blistered skin
  • Wet appearance of the area due to fluid loss
  • Intense pain in afflicted area
  • Blistering
  • Blanching (whitening) to area when touched

Treatment for Burns

If your skin is blistered from the sun, visit eMedical Urgent Care for treatment. If you can’t see a doctor, leave the blisters alone and use petroleum jelly and a light gauze wrap to protect it. When the blister bursts, remove the collapsed skin with sterile tweezers and gently wash the area. Continue to use gauze to protect the blister and change the dressing once or twice daily to prevent it from becoming soggy and breaking down the skin.

If it’s a minor burn, use cold compresses to lessen your discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers and topical ointments will provide adequate protection. Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen will control pain and swelling of the injury.

When Should I See a Doctor?

  • If the area of your blistering burns is the size of your palm or larger, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If there are any signs of infection including fever, redness and swelling of the wound
  • If there is foul smelling drainage seeping from the burn
  • If there is evidence of shock, such as difficulty breathing, dilated pupils or inability to stay warm.
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