Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Sunburn

Questions and Answers

I am fair-skinned and my friend is
dark. Why can she spend a long
time in the sun without burning
while I have to be very careful?

Being fair-skinned means that you
have little pigment in your skin.
Your friend has more pigment,
and can also manufacture more
than you when exposed to
sunlight. She has a natural barrier
to the sun’s harmful rays, and is
capable of developing even
greater protection. You will burn
easily because your skin cannot
produce enough protective
pigment and no amount of
sunbathing will alter this.

Can some drugs make you more
sensitive to the sun?

Yes. Examples are the tranquilizer
chlorpromazine and the antibiotic
oxytetracycline. This abnormal
reaction is called photosensitivity. A
rash like sunburn develops on areas
exposed to the sun, but if the drug
is stopped, the rash fades.

I have very sensitive skin. Is there
any treatment I can have before
going on vacation this year?

You could have a course of
ultraviolet ray therapy
beforehand, to increase your
pigmentation. Or you could use a
sunscreen preparation that filters
out the sun’s stronger rays,
allowing a slow tan to develop.

I have fair hair that becomes
lighter in the sun while my skin
becomes darker. Why is this?

The pigment in hair is already
present, while that in skin appears
only when the pigment-producing
cells are activated by sunlight.
Fair hair has a different sort
of pigment from dark hair and,
unlike dark hair, light hair
becomes bleached on exposure to
strong sunlight.

Deliberately exposing the skin to the sun can be a risky activity. To limit skin damage, common sense and forethought will help prevent not only the discomfort of sunburn but also the danger of developing serious conditions such as skin cancer.

The sun has traditionally played a beneficent role in human civilization and has been seen in many cultures as a life giver. Attitudes are beginning to change, however. The discovery in the mid-1980s that the ozone layer—the part of the Earth’s atmosphere that protects the planet from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation—was under assault from synthetic pollutants and that, as a consequence, people increasingly run the risk of developing skin cancer and possibly cataracts from overexposure to the sun’s rays, has made people view the sun with more wariness (see Ozone Layer).


How sunburn occurs

Sunburn is the result of immediate sun damage to the skin. Sunburn is a form of radiation burn rather than heat burn. Unlike a burn caused by heat, sunburn does not completely develop and is not felt until a few hours after it happens.

The sun is really a small star and its energy can be compared with a continuous and enormous atomic explosion. Some of its rays are deadly, but these are filtered out by the Earth’s atmosphere and never reach the Earth itself. The rays that do pass through the atmosphere are part of the sun’s spectrum, which consists of visible rays that are seen as light; infrared rays that

Although sunbathing on the beach is a relaxing activity, in reality the sun’s rays
reflecting off water can be extremely damaging to the skin
.

-2126-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 15
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Spastic Colon 2022
  • Specimens 2024
  • Speculum 2027
  • Speech 2028
  • Speech Therapy 2032
  • Sperm 2034
  • Sphygmomanometer 2036
  • Spina Bifida 2037
  • Spinal Cord 2040
  • Spleen 2044
  • Splinters 2047
  • Splints 2048
  • Sports Injury 2050
  • Sports Medicine 2052
  • Sprains 2056
  • Stammering and Stuttering 2058
  • Staphylococcus 2062
  • Starch 2063
  • Stem Cell 2065
  • Stenosis 2067
  • Sterilization 2068
  • Steroids 2072
  • Stethoscope 2074
  • Stiffness 2076
  • Stillbirth 2080
  • Stimultants 2083
  • Stitch 2086
  • Stomach 2088
  • Stomach Pump 2091
  • Strangulation 2094
  • Streptococcus 2097
  • Stress 2098
  • Stress Management 2103
  • Stretch Marks 2105
  • Sty 2112
  • Subconscious 2114
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome 2116
  • Suffocation 2118
  • Sugars 2120
  • Suicide 2122
  • Sunburn 2126
  • Sunstroke 2130
  • Suppositories 2132
  • Surgery 2134
  • Surrogacy 2141
  • Sutures 2144
  • Swellings 2145
  • Symptoms 2149
  • Syphilis 2153
  • Syringing 2156
  • Index 2158
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