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Sunburn

People seldom apply enough sunscreen or rarely reapply it. Sunscreen should be applied in generous amounts in layers and reapplied after being exposed. Activities such as sweating and swimming degrade its effectiveness. Sunscreens are not waterproof. The US Food and Drug Administration is banning what it calls misleading labeling on sunscreens. The use of the words sunblock, waterproof, and all day protection will no longer be used.

Certain drugs can sensitize the skin to radiation injury. If you take them, avoid the sun. Your doctor or pharmacist can further advise you about your medications and sun sensitivity.

  • Most likely to cause sun sensitivity are antibiotics, antipsoriatics (prescribed for skin conditions), and acne medicines.
  • The herbal drug, St. John's wort, is also thought to make you more vulnerable to sunburn.

Mind-altering drugs (including alcohol) can diminish your awareness of getting sunburned and should be avoided. Short and sequential exposure times can lead to skin pigment changes, which most of us call tanning. This can lead to increased sun tolerance but can also lead to long-term problems such as skin cancer  . Getting a tan is often a primary reason people go out in the sun with maximum skin exposed in the first place. Sunburn is most common in children and younger adults.

Avoid tanning beds entirely. Most tanning parlors make safety claims that the US Food and Drug Administration considers false.

Outlook

Minor and uncomplicated cases of sunburn   cause discomfort and no long-lasting effects. You can expect to feel better in 4-7 days. You may see skin loss or peeling. This is often associated with severe itching, especially at night, after sweating, or after showering.

Other skin problems, such as herpes simplex, lupus, and porphyria (an inherited disorder of sensitivity to sunlight) may worsen.

Chronic sun exposure may lead to premature aging, severe wrinkling, pigmented skin lesion development (moles), and various malignant (cancerous) skin tumors. Premature cataract formation in the eye can also result.

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