PROTECT  YOURSELF  FROM  THE  SUN  THIS  SUMMER

MANILA, APRIL 9, 2006
 (STAR) The sweltering heat and the sunís "burning rays" are a given, especially during summer.

Thus, summer outings should not only be a one-time trip to beach resorts or swimming pools, if only we know how to "tame the sun" and thus, avoid sunburns and prickly heat or bungang araw.

To enjoy and make the most of family or office weekend outings, here are some valuable tips from the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS).

Exposure to direct and reflected sunlight invariably causes skin damage. Sunlight produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes in two forms, A and B.

The latter or UVB rays are known as the "burning rays" and are responsible for sun burns, while UVA rays penetrate deeper and are more responsible for tanning or pigmentation.

Furthermore, chronic repeated exposures may cause the skin to have a wrinkled, leathery appearance and all other signs of premature aging. Both chronic exposures to UVB and UVA are risk factors for the development of skin cancer.

Thus, donít take the sunís rays for granted. Always protect your eyes and your skin, the PDS stressed.

Here in the Philippines and other tropical countries, the sunís rays are harshest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. So, donít expose yourself too long during this five-hour period, without any protective clothing, sunglasses, or wide-rimmed hat and sunscreen.

When doing outdoor chores such as tending the garden, preferably wear dark-colored pants and a long-sleeve shirt. Dark clothing may be hot, but it prevents the sunís radiation from penetrating the skin. On the other hand, light-colored clothes absorb up to 80 percent of solar radiation, and reflect only 10 percent.

It is advisable to apply a broad spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB) sunscreen, preferably with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, on the skin 30 minutes before any outdoor activity. When going out for a swim, skin experts recommend using a waterproof sunscreen lotion, when available.

Without protection from the sunís burning rays, the skinís outer layer turns red and in worse cases develops blisters. After several days, the dead skin peels off.

In severe exposure, one may develop sunstroke, which at times is accompanied by vomiting and fever. In worse cases, sun-stroked patients faint.

Expectedly, the longer one stays under the sun, he or she has more chances of getting sunburns, according to the PDS. When longer sun exposure is expected, use sunscreens with higher SPF.

However, the SPF of a sunscreen should not give us a false sense of security since if we stay out in the sun long enough, we will eventually burn, even with the "best" sunscreen.

For mild sunburn, simply apply cold compress on the affected area. In severe cases, patients are advised to consult a dermatologist who will give medicines to reduce the swelling and pain and prevent infection.

But sunburns can be simply prevented by limiting direct exposure to the sun during the harsh five-hour window, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

And when undertaking any outdoor activity, one should apply sunscreen evenly on all exposed body parts, every two hours. When swimming, use waterproof sunscreen and re-apply after toweling off.

Definitely, summer will not be fun, wholesome and complete without the children and teenagers. And parents should accord them with special care, as their skin is soft and tender, and thus gets easily sunburned. In fact, their skin is six times more sensitive to the sunís rays than those of adults.

Another ordinary skin ailment, especially during hot and humid weather, is prickly heat (or bungang araw).

The most common prickly heat is miliaria rubra, where the pores of the sweat glands get plugged or blocked, resulting in tiny pink or red bumps and even water blisters.

The bumps develop on covered parts of the skin (especially where there is friction from clothing or other paraphernalia), forehead (when wearing a visor), body folds, upper back and chest, and armpits.

Often, prickly heat causes irritation and itching, which can be treated with gentle cleansing of affected parts, and thereafter applied with anti-perspiration powder.

Patients may also undergo hydrotherapy or take an alkaline bath, that is, soaking for at least 30 minutes to one hour in a tub filled with lukewarm water mixed with one cup of baking soda.

In severe conditions or widespread itching, patients are advised take a cool bath with cornstarch and/or oatmeal. Another method is applying on affected parts topical antipruritics or itch relievers that contain calamine, aloe, menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil or similar ingredients.

After an outdoor activity, immediately remove sweat-soaked clothes, and towel off. After a couple of minutes, take a cold shower or bath. Thereafter, wear loose, comfortable clothes and apply anti-perspiration powder.

Aside from sunburn and prickly heat, PDS advises people to be also cautious of bacterial and fungal infections, as these proliferate or multiply faster in warm and humid temperatures. These include athleteís foot and ringworm and other similar infectious skin diseases.

Thus, when going to beaches and public pools, wear slippers when taking showers before and after a swim to avoid contracting skin diseases.

Further, be watchful of skin blemishes that donít seem to heal despite medication, or moles that change in size, shape or color. These may be indications of skin cancer.

Those with a family history of skin cancer should be extra vigilant, the PDS warns. It is advised that patients should immediately consult a dermatologist, who may perform a skin biopsy, which is a quick and painless procedure, to determine if the blemish or mole is cancerous or not.

Finally, to enjoy any indoor or outdoor activity this summer, the best and simplest thing to do is to observe proper hygiene, PDS says. If possible, take a short, quick shower twice a day to cleanse away unwanted perspiration and bacteria on the body.

Since sun exposure cannot be avoided, protect yourself appropriately. Put on your sunscreen, wear your favorite sunglasses, a cap or wide-brimmed hat, or better yet open your umbrella Ė and enjoy the rites of summer, either taking a stroll or a quick dip in the pool or enjoying a beach party.

* * *

Founded in 1952, the Philippine Dermatological Society is the only recognized affiliate society for dermatology of the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine College of Physicians.

It is committed to maintaining the highest ethical professional standards in the practice of dermatology through its mission-vision: to be a highly recognized society, locally and globally, striving toward excellence in the attainment of healthy skin for all, through humane service, information dissemination, training and research.

The PDS Secretariat is at Rm. 1015, Front Tower, Cathedral Heights Building Complex, St. Lukeís Medical Center, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City (tel. no. 727-7309; website www.pds.org.ph).


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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