Everyday Wellness: Don't let the sun get under your skin

July 7, 2011

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Early detection of the skin cancer melanoma can save your life. No matter what your age, if you find a new or changing mole, have a dermatologist check it.

Following are tips for preventing all types of skin cancer, including melanoma.

Staying safe in the summer sun
Summer is here, and it's a great time to be outdoors. Enjoy that summer sun, but be sure you take steps to protect your skin while you're outside. If you're going to be out in the sun for more than 15 minutes, keep these precautions in mind:

* Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Check the label to be sure it protects from both UV (ultraviolet) A and B.
* Apply a thin layer of sunscreen 15 minutes before exposure. Reapply every two hours.
* Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothes and a broad-brimmed hat.
* Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that provide UV protection.
* Drink plenty of water: sweating helps to cool the skin.
* Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the burning rays are strongest.
* Use extra caution near water and sand. They reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Source: Web MD

If your child gets a sunburn
Sunburn can sneak up on kids after a long day at the beach or park. They may seem fine during the day, but get "after-burn" later, which can be painful and make them feel sick. The symptoms tend to become more severe several hours after sun exposure. Some also develop chills. A child's sun-dried skin can become itchy and tight, and burned skin begins to peel about a week after the sunburn.

If your child is sunburned, here's what to do:
* Keep your child indoors or in the shade until the sunburn heals. Avoid additional sun exposure, which will increase the pain and severity of the burn.
* To help get rid of pain and heat, have your child take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin.
* Apply pure aloe vera gel (available in most pharmacies) to any sunburned areas. It relieves sunburn pain and helps skin heal faster.
* Give a pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen and spray on over-the-counter "after-sun" pain relievers. (However, do not give aspirin to children or teens.)
* A moisturizing cream will rehydrate the skin and help reduce swelling. For the most severely burned areas, apply a thin layer of 1 percent hydrocortisone cream. (Do not use petroleum-based products because they prevent excess heat and sweat from escaping. Avoid products that contain benzocaine, which may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.)
* If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your doctor.
Source: CIGNA

How Purdue can help
* Purdue medical plan coverage
For information on coverage provided by your Purdue medical plan (www.purdue.edu/hr/Benefits/index.html), including services and screenings provided at no cost to you, contact a LiveWell Advocate (PurdueLiveWell@CIGNA.com) at 800-767-7141.
* myCIGNA.com
For additional information on skin cancer, skin care and more, visit myCIGNA.com.

Resource: American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)