The Dangers of Too Much Sun

Sunlight is important. It allows us to manufacture vitamin D in our skin. It helps brighten our mood. Without it, we would not exist on this planet.
But other aspects of sunlight are not so benign.

Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can damage our skin and cause sunburn. Over time, UV light can cause skin to prematurely age by making it sag, wrinkle and become discolored.

UV light can trigger skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous malignant melanoma.

Just being out in the hot sun for too long can cause heatstroke. This is a medical emergency.

The thickness of our skin and its pigmentation help determine how soon we become sunburned.

The pigment melanin helps absorb these potentially harmful UV rays. The darker the skin, the more protection it usually provides.

Signs of sunburn include skin redness, pain, itching and warmth.

More severe sunburn may include blistering, headache, nausea, fever, chills, dizziness, extreme pain, confusion and dehydration.

Medical help should be sought for these symptoms.

Treatment of sunburn includes getting out of the sun, a cool bath or shower, ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed for pain, extra fluids for a few days, moisturizing creams or aloe gel.

Blisters should not be popped, and burned areas should be covered when outside until they are healed.

Preventing sunburns include avoiding peak sunlight hours (10 a.m.-3 p.m.), wearing protective clothes and hat, wearing sunglasses with good UV protection, being careful around surfaces that reflect sunlight (concrete, water, sand or snow) and using sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher.

Do not forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours if swimming, sweating or toweling off.

Heatstroke (or sunstroke) can occur when out in the hot sun for too long. Signs of this include severe headache, confusion, dizziness, increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, loss of consciousness or coma, seizures, no sweating, flushed skin that is hot and dry and a temperature of 105F or greater.

This is a medical emergency, so 911 should be called.

Meanwhile, the child should be brought inside or into the shade. He should lie down with his feet elevated (unless vomiting, then turn him to the side).

If he is alert, a cool bath or misting with the hose (if outside) should be given along with frequent sips of cool, clear liquids.