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Sun Safe

Salem Creekside Newsletter - July 2015Sun SAfety

For many months of the year, it's difficult to imagine the need for sun protection, but perhaps the gray days are the price we pay for the Willamette Valley's glorious summer weather. Farmers' Almanac is predicting a sunny and warm one this year, so before hitting the beach, lake or golf course be sure you have the necessary tools to keep your skin safe.

  • Slather on the sunscreen. Centers for Disease control recommends SPF 15 or greater, with both UVA and UVB protection. Remember that sunscreen wears off after sweating or swimming, so reapply every two hours or so, and about 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. If you find some in the bottom of your swim bag from last summer, toss it. Sunscreen has a shelf life of three years, but considerably shorter if it's been exposed to heat and sun.

  • Cover up. Regular clothing alone does not provide adequate protection from the sun - a t-shirt has an SPF lower than 15 – but it does help. Long, loose sleeves are a good choice, and dark colors may offer a little better coverage than lighter clothing. If you are fair-skinned or take medications that put you at a higher risk for sunburn, consider investing in sun protective clothing specially manufactured to provide ultimate protection from sunlight.

  • Wear a hat. The top of the scalp, back of the neck and tips of the ears are often neglected when applying sunscreen, so a wide-brimmed hat can definitely help. A canvas hat provides more coverage than a straw hat, which can still let sunlight through to these sensitive areas.

  • Don't forget your eyes. Believe it or not, your eyes can get sunburned, especially if you're out on a reflective surface like water that bounces the sun back into your face. Sunglasses protect your eyes as well as the sensitive skin around them from sunburn. A good pair will protect against UVA and UVB rays. The good news is that even most inexpensive brands offer this measure of protection.

  • Get shady. If you can, avoid the sun during midday hours – or find a tree, umbrella or shade to sit under.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes the sun protection gets away from us. If you start to feel the telltale tingle of a sunburn, the key is to get out of the sun and begin treating the symptoms right away. Reducing the severity of sunburn symptoms could ultimately reduce its long-term effects.

A cool shower or bath can ease the initial discomfort, followed by a soothing lotion containing Vitamin E and aloe vera. Ibuprofen can reduce pain and swelling as well. Remember to stay hydrated – the skin is your body's largest organ and a burn draws fluid to your skin and away from the rest of your body.

If a burn blisters and covers a large area of the one's skin, it's best to seek medical attention.

A person's risk for melanoma - the most serious form of skin cancer - doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns in their lifetime. It's important to protect our adult skin in consideration of our past sun indiscretions, and teach children how to play it safe from the beginning.