NEWS | Aug. 1, 2011

Fun in the sun can be painful

By 628th Airbase Wing Safety office

The weather is hot, schools are out and people are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warmer weather. Always be aware of heat conditions. Extreme heat conditions allow for potential heat-related illnesses and injuries, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

The signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and fainting.

Heat stroke can lead to death if not treated quickly. The signs of a heat stroke are headache, dizziness, confusion and unconsciousness. Individuals suffering from a heat stroke need immediate medical attention.

Keep these outdoor safety tips in mind to prevent heat exhaustion or stroke and to ensure your summer is a safe and pleasant one:

- The first and probably best line of defense against the harsh sun is wearing the proper clothing like a long sleeved shirt and long pants, sunglasses that block 100 percent of ultraviolet rays and a hat with at least a three-inch brim.

- Sunscreen is imperative while out in the sun. Apply and reapply sunscreen when out in the sun, especially during peak hours.

The American Association of Dermatology recommends a broad spectrum sun block with an SPF of at least 15 that is applied daily to all sun exposed areas, then reapplied every two hours. In some recent clinical trials, sun block with SPF 30 provided significantly better protection than sun block with SPF 15.

- Waterproof sunscreens last a while in the water, but reapply sunscreen when coming out of the water.

- Apply a lip balm with at least SPF 15 on your lips.

- Stay in the shade whenever possible and avoid the peak hours of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

- Drink plenty of water to avoid heat-related illnesses.

- Be aware of the invisible sun, which is the sun on a cloudy or overcast day. It is easy to think that sunburn won't develop because of cooler temperatures or breezes on a cloudy day while in reality sunburn is developing on your skin.

- Limit exposure to reflective surfaces like water. Ultra violet rays can be reflected off of water and sand so continue to practice sun protective behaviors even when in shady areas and near reflective surfaces.

Even those with the best sun safety intentions sometimes find themselves with a sunburn. If this happens, follow these steps recommended by the Mayo Clinic to prevent further damage to your skin and to help ease any discomfort:

- Keep it cool. Apply cold compresses such as a towel dampened with cool water to the affected skin or take a cool bath.

- Keep it moist. Apply aloe or moisturizing cream to the affected skin. Avoid products containing alcohol which can further dry out skin. Beware of sunburn treatment products containing anesthetics such as benzocaine. There's little evidence that these products are effective. In some cases, they may even irritate the skin.

- Leave blisters intact. If blisters form, don't break them. You'll only slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection. If needed, lightly cover blisters with gauze.

- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If needed, take anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen according to the label instructions until redness and soreness subside. Don't give children or teenagers aspirin. It may cause Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease.

- Treat peeling skin gently. Within a few days, the affected area may begin to peel. This is simply your body's way of getting rid of the top layer of damaged skin. While your skin is peeling, continue to use moisturizing cream.

Consult a doctor for sunburn treatment if:

- Severe sunburn covers a large portion of your body with blisters.

- Sunburn is accompanied by a high fever or severe pain.

- Severe sunburn doesn't begin to improve within a few days.

If heat exhaustion occurs after being in the sun, cool body temperatures immediately with cool water, rest and a cool shower. However, if a more serious condition occurs after being in the sun, such as heat stroke, immediately seek medical attention and follow these rules given by the Mayo Clinic:

- Move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space.

- Call 911 for emergency medical help.

- Cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water.

- Cool the person by using direct air with a fan or newspaper.

- Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine if he or she is able.