Sun ahead, bring out the sunscreen

The sunny season has arrived and the Student Health Service says cover up with sunscreen.

The dangers are not only the pain of sunburn but the threat of skin cancer, said Julianne Ballard, registered nurse with the health service.

“We try to get people to limit their sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s when the rays are strongest. And even on cloudy days, the ultraviolet rays are present.”

The health service tells people they should wear sunscreen daily with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher. They should wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats if they’re going to be exposed to sun, particularly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Also, avoid tanning booths and sun lamps because those are damaging to the skin. Some prescription medications, such as Retin-A and some antibiotics, actually render the skin more susceptible to damage to the sun when exposed to UV radiation.

When using sunscreen, it is important to cover exposed areas which are sometimes missed, such as feet, ears, neck and backs of hands.Skin cancer and sunburn can be dangers even in winter months when people go skiing or mountaineering. The sun’s rays bounce off the snow and can create a painful sunburn.

Ballard said sunscreens with an SPF of 4 or 8 are a waste. People like the tanned look and they feel they’re getting some protection from the lower SPF, but they are not.

“Under 15 is not beneficial,” she said. “You’re not getting anything but a burn.”The health service also has advice on how to take care of sunburns, because sometimes no matter how much sunscreen is applied, sunburn occurs, especially in fair-skinned people.

The health service tells people to cool off in cool water to stop the burning sensation, then apply cool compresses. Don’t apply any lubricant like Vaseline. After the skin has cooled down, sufferers can use aloe cream or gel, available over the counter.

If the sunburn is bad, students can come to the student health service for help. That degree of sunburn could involve blistering, and any type of fever, chills or nausea.

She warned that people need to think about their eyes and sunglasses. The eyes cannot be burned but sun exposure can contribute to cataracts or damage to the retina. It is also possible to get cancer of the eyelid.

“You don’t need the darkest or most expensive glasses,” she said. “You need something that will block at least 80 percent of the sun’s rays.”

Some of the highly recommended glasses have printed on the frame “z-80.3 standard.” This indicates glasses that meet the American National Standards Institute UV absorption guidelines.

The health service has printed material to give to students covering sun exposure, melanoma and how to look for skin cancers.

“The nurses are always happy to see a student drop in who wants information on how to protect themselves from the sun and how to do a mole check,” she said. “You never need an appointment for a nurse visit. You just drop in.”