DR. HOOK- Sunny side up: Wear sunscreen to prevent burning

Sunburn makes me realize how often people slap me. "Hey mate!" Slap on the singed shoulder. "Can you believe that!" Slap on the red thigh. "Give me a hug!" Slap Slap Slap on the burned back.

 Remember on I Love Lucy when sunburned Lucy wore a tweed dress on the runway? She walked like domo arigato, Mr. Robato. Sunburn hurts!

 About 35 percent of American adults and 80 percent of kids get sunburned every year. I know when I lived in Ohio (hardly a sunny state), I got sunburned every single year. Why? Well, we didn't wear sunscreen back then. Instead we put on suntan lotion to get that George Hamilton tan. So we'd been in the pool for eight hours, all the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays cooked us like rotisserie chickens. Rosemary anyone?

 But I burned much less easily than fair white-skinned folks with light hair. And those with darker complexions (all 12 of them in my metropolitan hometown), they burned even less than I did– if at all. 

 Besides those with fair skin, those who drink too much alcohol are prone to sunburn. (Talk about getting baked!) Psoralens found in citrus fruit peels can make one vulnerable to the sun, so making fresh lemonade in the sun might not be practical. (Orange you glad you know this now?) And some medicines can lead to horrible sunburn, like tetracyclines, quinolone antibiotics, diuretics, and anti-inflammatories.

 The problem with most people is they don't realize when they're getting sunburned. The redness usually pops up three to five hours later, and then the pain and real redness start after 12-24 hours. So people who walk on the sunny side of the street too long feel the misery of sunburn for the next three days. 

 Sunscreens are hot, hot, hot on the market now. If I'm going to be out in the sun more than 30 minutes, I definitely have my sunscreen SPF 15 on. I put on waterproof sunscreen about 20-30 minutes before going out into the sun, and usually I don't need to reapply.

 However, each person differs when it comes to when to put on sunscreen and the level of SPF. I have a friend who almost gets sunburned in moonlight, so even with SPF 50 sunscreen, it's Rock Lobster time for him after only five minutes. 

 The SPF number means the number of minutes in the sun with the sunscreen compared to one min in the sun without sunscreen. So if you tend to burn under the sun in just one minute, and SPF 15 will protect you for 15 minutes before you get toasted. 

 Reapplying sunscreen also depends on whether the stuff is going to sweat off or rinse off in water, how long a person is exposed to the sun, and how easily the person burns. 

 Sunscreens either absorb the UV rays (chemical screens) or reflect them (physical screens). I remember in my hometown how the lifeguards wore the physical sunscreen, zinc oxide, so they had a geisha nose. But with zinc, titanium, and other physical sunscreens, you can't stick you nose into other people's business, or you might stain their clothes. And they can also cause acne, though I found a good titanium screen that keeps my skin in great shape.

 Chemical sunscreens, like PABA and camphor derivatives, are often found in waterproof products. But some folks are allergic to PABA and get a rash.

 To soothe the pain, a few people respond to anti-inflammatories or topical anesthetics like Solarcaine. But the best thing is prevention, prevention, prevention. Some burn trash, some burn candles at both ends, and some burn bridges. But just be careful not to sunburn your skin.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.