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Sun safety: How to avoid sizzling this summer

Sunshine is good for the body, but unfortunately, you can get too much of a good thing. Too much sun on unprotected skin is a recipe for a sunburn.

A sunburn is an inflammation of the skin that’s caused by the UV rays in sunlight. Tanning lamps and beds can also cause a sunburn. The damage can sneak up on you, with symptoms not becoming noticeable for one to four hours after exposure. Those symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Pain or sensitivity to touch
  • Warmth
  • A feeling of tightness
  • Swelling or blisters

Some people also experience additional symptoms that are signs of a more severe sunburn:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

It’s common knowledge that your risk of a sunburn increases if you have paler skin. But did you know that several common medications can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays?

Family medicine physician Dr. Keyna Martinez is accepting patients at Beacon Medical Group Bremen.

Keyna Martinez, MD, medical director of Beacon Medical Group Bremen, advises people to be extra cautious about sun exposure if they’re taking any of the following medications:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines that contain ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Metformin, a diabetes medication
  • Hydrochlorothiazide, a common blood pressure medication
  • Certain antibiotics that include doxycycline (which is often used to treat skin and respiratory infections) or fluoroquinolones (such as ciprofloxacin, which is often prescribed for urinary infections)

To protect your skin from damaging UV rays, avoid spending time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and wear protective clothing, including sunglasses. Also be sure to use sunscreen on any exposed skin and reapply it at least every couple hours. The higher the SPF, the better.

If you get burned

Should you get a mild sunburn, Dr. Martinez recommends aloe vera gel and calamine lotion to ease symptoms.

“Otherwise, wash with mild soap and water and use wet coverings over opened blisters,” she said. “Unopened blisters should be left alone, as the intact skin prevents infection.”

Also drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. To ease feelings of tightness in your skin, take a cool shower or bath, gently pat your skin until it’s nearly dry and then apply moisturizer. This helps trap the water in your skin.

Dr. Martinez advises that when someone has a severe sunburn, they may need IV fluids to treat dehydration. Call your health care provider if you experience:

  • Fever
  • Signs of infection
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Pain so bad that you can’t do normal daily activities
  • Symptoms that are getting progressively worse instead of better

Protecting your skin this summer will not only help prevent painful sunburn episodes, it will help reduce your risk of skin cancer in the future.

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