Sun Safety: Protect yourself from the sun

Every spring and summer, Soldiers get painful sunburns that lead to time lost from duty and training. If you have a fair complexion and light hair, you are especially at risk for skin damage from the sun. The sun can also hurt your eyes, so even Soldiers with dark complexions need to protect themselves.

Protect your skin

Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or above that protects against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays. Reapply every few hours if you can. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your lips. Many lip balms contain sunscreen. Once opened, sunscreen loses its strength over a year, so replace your sunscreen at least once a year. Get a waterproof sunscreen if you will be sweating a lot or will be around water. To protect your skin, you should also seek shade, use your uniform to cover your arms and legs, and wear a wide-brimmed hat when possible to protect your head and neck.

Protecting your eyes

Wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection (UVA and UVB). Sunglasses do not have to be expensive to protect well. Wrap-around shades work the best. Wide-brimmed hats also help.

Timing is everything

The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Use the rule “Short Shadow? Seek Shade!” If your shadow is shorter than your height, you can get a light sunburn in about 35 minutes. But when your shadow is twice as long as your height, it would take about 90 minutes for you to get that same light sunburn.

First Aid

There is no quick cure for minor sunburn. Symptoms can be treated with aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain and headache, and reduce fever. Drinking plenty of water helps to replace fluid lost. Cool baths or the gentle application of cool wet cloths on the burned area may also provide some comfort. Workers with sunburns should avoid further exposure until the burn has resolved. A topical moisturizing cream, aloe, or a low-dose (0.5-1 percent) hydrocortisone cream, which is sold over the counter, may also help ease the pain and speed up the healing.

If blistering occurs, lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection. The blisters should not be broken, as this will slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection. When the blisters break and the skin peels, dried fragments may be removed and an antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream may be applied.

Seek medical attention if any of the following occur: dehydration; high fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit; extreme pain that persists for longer than 48 hours or severe sunburns covering more than 15 percent of the body (more than just the forearms and lower legs).