Tip of the Week: Love the Skin You're In

Tip of the Week: Love the Skin You're In

Spring is right around the corner, and this week's Health Tip is for those of you planning some "fun in the sun." One of the quickest ways to ruin your outdoor excursion is to get sunburned, so here are a few tips to hopefully help you avoid this painful experience.

Sunburn happens when the amount of exposure to the sun exceeds the ability of one of the body's pigments, melanin, to protect the skin. Unlike a thermal burn, sunburn is not immediately apparent. By the time the skin starts becoming painful and red, the damage is already done. The pain is worst between six and 48 hours after sun exposure. Toxins are released with sunburn and fever is not uncommon. Skin peeling usually begins between three and eight days after exposure.

Very effective sun screens have been developed that protect from UVA and UVB (long and short wavelengths of ultraviolet light), which are the components of sunlight responsible for burning and cancerous changes in the skin. Sunscreen, protective clothing and ultraviolet-protected sunglasses are all recommended to prevent excessive sun exposure. In the case of sunburn, prevention is always the "best medicine," but if you do get a burn, follow the tips below to minimize your discomfort:

1. Ibuprofen: For pain relief, begin taking ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) as soon as possible. Dosage is 400 mg every six hours.

2. Steroid Cream: Apply 1 percent hydrocortisone cream ASAP and then three times a day. If you don't have any, use a moisturizing cream until you can get some.

3. Cool Baths: Apply cool compresses to the burned area several times a day to reduce pain and burning. For larger sunburns, take a cool bath for 10 minutes. Add 2 oz. baking soda per tub. Avoid soap on the sunburn.

4. Extra Fluids: Drink extra water on the first day to replace the fluids lost into the sunburn and to prevent dehydration and dizziness.

5. Broken Blisters: For broken blisters, trim off the dead skin with fine scissors. Apply antibiotic ointment (e.g., Bacitracin) to the raw skin under broken blisters. Reapply twice daily for three days. Leave intact blisters alone; the intact blister protects the skin and allows it to heal.

6. Prevention: Reduce sun exposure. Apply sunscreen to areas that aren't protected by clothing. Reapply the sunscreen every two to four hours. You should also reapply after swimming, exercising or sweating. A sunscreen with a rating of SPF 15 to 30 should be used. Sunscreens with SPF levels higher than 30 provide only minimal additional protection.

The long-term consequences of overexposure to the sun are significant. One blistering sunburn doubles the likelihood of developing malignant melanoma. Chronic sun exposure causes premature wrinkling and aging of the skin. Skin cancer is directly related to the total amount of sun exposure. Sun exposure and ultraviolet damage have also been implicated in the development of cataracts. So the message is clear: "Love the skin you're in" and protect it from sunburn.

Question: Does Gardasil interfere with the depo shot? I always get my shots on time but for some reason for the past few days I have been feeling nauseated, having headaches, and cannot use the bathroom.

Answer: There should be no interference between the two shots; any effects that you experienced were most likely just a coincidence.

Question: I took ECP and now my period is about a week late. Does ECP have an effect on your ovulation schedule?

Answer: ECP would not change your ovulation time, but the intent of this drug is to stop ovulation for the current cycle. Given this, ECP can change the time of your period: Some people notice bleeding earlier than expected, while others notice it later, like in your situation.

(This column is courtesy of the Lauderdale Center for Student Health and Counseling. YAWA is an anonymous, online Q & A Service on the Health & Counseling Web site. If you have a question for YAWA, log onto go.geneseo.edu/yawa).