USA TODAY High School Sports and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association have partnered on a monthly column to address injuries, prevention and related issues to help schools, coaches and student-athletes. Here is the latest column from Scott Sailor, the president of NATA.
Summer is in full swing, and there are many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you spend the day at the ballpark, soccer field or swimming pool, too much time in the sun can result in a skin injury such as sunburn.
A sunburn occurs when the skin becomes damaged from natural or artificial ultraviolet light exposure. If that light exposure is excessive, long-term skin damage can occur. It is important for everyone to take proper precautions.
This is particularly important in youth since studies have shown that most sun damage occurs before the age of 20.
Sunscreen is the No. 1 defense against damaging the skin throughout life. It is available in a variety of types such as spray, lotion and wipes. The most important thing to know is when to apply and reapply depending on the time out in the sun, if you will be sweating and whether you will be exposed to water.
No matter what the season, outdoor sporting events make you more susceptible to sunburn and especially now with preseason practices around the corner.
Regardless of your skin tone or age, follow these tips for sun safety throughout the year:
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. SPF refers to how long you can stay in the sun until the protection wears off. For example, SPF 30 means you have 30 minutes before you need to reapply.
- Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside.
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen even if the sun is not out; UV rays can be strong, even on a cloudy day.
- If you are swimming or sweating, make sure your sunscreen is water and sweat resistant, and reapply every couple of hours.
- Use a lip balm with SPF 30 or greater to keep your lips moisturized and protected. Your lips are skin and they too can be damaged by the sun.
- Always stay hydrated. Drinking water and staying hydrated isn’t just for when you work out or play sports. It is important at all times especially when out in the sun. Hydration not only affects your internal organs but also the largest organ of all, your skin.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat when out in the sun. Your eyes are sensitive to light and can be damaged if exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Hats with large brims can protect not only the eyes and face but also the neck, which can be sensitive to the sun as well.
- Apply sunscreen to two often forgotten, but among the most sensitive areas of the skin – the scalp and ears.
- Keep your skin hydrated after periods in the sun. Use aloe vera or lotion that contains aloe vera to keep skin cooled and moisturized. Aloe can soothe pain and redness caused by sunburn or dryness due to sun exposure.
- Stay in the shade when possible.
- Check your skin often to make sure nothing looks out of the ordinary. Any freckles or moles that have increased in size or changed colors should be examined by a medical professional.