By the time, you feel the heat it's already too late; The damage is already done. The sunburn starts innocently enough with a warm sensation in the skin and a little redness, but you'll be paying for it tomorrow. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep from burning in these summertime airsoft games.
What is sunburn?
At the most basic level, sunburn is your body's reaction to skin damage caused by radiation exposure. For the purpose of this article, we'll focus on Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure.
When your skin is exposed to high levels of UV-B light, it damages the DNA in your cells. With mild exposure, some cells are able to repair the damage and you may not even notice any symptoms. When exposure increases, it can damage your skin cells beyond repair. Cells that are unable to repair themselves will trigger an immune response and self-destruct. The body then increases blood flow to the area resulting in redness and swelling. The heat tolerance of your nerves in the damaged area decreases, making you more sensitive to heat. In severe cases, blistering and stinging pain can result.
While you may recover from a mild burn in a week, damage from sunburn accumulates over time and can result in an increased risk of skin cancer. *1
Prevent Sunburn: Preventing the burn requires vigilance on your part. It may be inconvenient, but it can save you from a great deal of pain both now and in the future.
Avoid prolonged skin exposure to the sun between 10 am and 2 pm when the UV index is at its peak.
Cover as much skin as possible with clothing capable of blocking UV.
Apply sunblock as directed by the manufacturer and remember to reapply as indicated. ONE APPLICATION IS NOT ENOUGH FOR A FULL DAY OUTDOORS.
Stay hydrated as dehydration will decrease so will the amount of time it takes your skin to burn.
Taking Vitamins C and E prior to exposure has been shown to help protect against sunburn. *2
Don't rely solely on your complexion (dark-skinned or tanned) to protect you.
What is sunblock/sunscreen?
Common commercial sunblocks contain chemicals that absorb UV light and dissipate the energy as heat. Some products only protect against UV-B exposure. It is a good practice to find a sunblock that provides both UV-A & UV-B protection, these are often labeled "broad spectrum."
Sunblocks are available as lotions, solid sticks, and spray-on. Whichever method of application you choose, make sure you use a liberal amount of it and cover all exposed skin. When you are applying your sunscreen and believe you have enough on, apply the same amount again. Research shows that people consistently under-apply sunscreen by as much as of the recommended amount. *3
Use an appropriate SPF. The SPF or Sun Protection Factor of a particular sunscreen lets you know how much UV light the product blocks. For instance, SPF 10 means only 1/10th of the UV you are exposed to hits your skin. An SPF of 15, the minimum recommended by the FDA, blocks 94% of the UV light you are exposed to from reaching your skin. SPF 30 blocks 97%, SPF 50 blocks 98%. SPF above 50 has not shown to increase effectiveness.
The SPF can help you gauge the effects of direct sun exposure on your skin. For instance, I am fair-skinned and will begin burning within 20 minutes of unprotected exposure. Applying an SPF of 30 would require me to maintain that same level of exposure for nearly ten hours to develop the same symptoms as no protection. The big thing to look out for here is that sunblock degrades when exposed to sun, water, sweat, and friction. While the SPF may suggest I can spend 10 hours in the midday sun with no ill effects, in reality, I would need to reapply that same sunblock every two hours to maintain protection.
The lesson to learn about sunblock is to not rely on high-SPF numbers alone for protection. You must use sufficient product and apply it often enough to protect you. Most products work best when applied 30 minutes prior to direct exposure to sunlight. This gives the product time to absorb into your skin and will make it last longer and provide increased protection. *4
Signs & Symptoms:
Red, swollen, hot skin.
Blistering and discoloration.
Dehydration symptoms (chills, nausea, vomiting, headache.)
Itchy, peeling skin is a late sign.
Severe symptoms such as a change in mental status, blisters covering a large area, or flu-like symptoms constitute a medical emergency and require immediate medical attention.
Treatment: Deal with it.
Get out of the sun immediately. The damage has already been done, but prolonged exposure will worsen symptoms and increase recovery time. Avoid exposing sunburned skin to sunlight.
Cool the burn. Take a cool shower or apply cool moist compresses to the burned area. Avoid icing the sunburn as this can exacerbate the injury.
Moisturize your skin with "light" lotion. Use a product that is oil and fragrance-free to help reduce peeling. Try to avoid dry skin at the site of the burn as this can cause itching.
Stay hydrated. Your body will be pushing fluids to your sunburned skin to help repair the damage, make sure you drink plenty of water in the days following onset of symptoms. If you feel thirsty, it may indicate you are already dehydrated and you should consider increasing water intake to compensate.
If you notice a great deal of redness, swelling or pain, consider taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like Advil or Motrin. This is a good sunburn remedy and will help reduce pain and inflammation and make you more comfortable.
Conclusion: Look, we all know sunburn sucks. It's a miserable few days followed by some cool skin-peeling...but that's only in the short term. Repeated sunburns in younger people increase their risk of skin cancer by an order of magnitude. If you're playing outside on a sunny day, don't just protect yourself; Remind some of the younger players to apply their sunblock occasionally. If you see another player turning red in the sun, let them know - adrenaline can mask the initial symptoms of sunburn. Let's look out for each other on the field!
*3 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/...onid=9A8B4C1CD7BB72FDF8246C45B2E30E AE.f02t02