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Sunburn in cloudy weather: what precautions to take?

Being outside is great for our physical, emotional and mental health. When you go outside, it’s important to take steps to protect your skin from the sun.

It can be tempting not to protect yourself when you can’t see the sun through the clouds. But the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, while invisible, is still very powerful. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can damage your skin, causing sunburn and skin damage that increases your risk of skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important to seek shade often and use sunscreen year-round.
Here’s why sunburn can occur on cloudy days, how to prevent sunburn, and what to prepare for when you go outside.

Why can you get a sunburn even on a cloudy day?

The sun’s UV radiation is a type of natural energy source that we cannot see. But we can feel the sun’s UV energy. This is why unprotected skin feels warm or lukewarm when exposed to the sun during the day. The sun’s UV radiation is at its strongest and most damaging between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight saving time, when the earth has the most exposure to the sun. UV radiation is even stronger and potentially dangerous in summer as the earth tilts towards the sun (it moves away from it in winter).

If you live near the equator, the sun’s UV radiation is strong year-round because that part of the world is closest to the sun. People who live, work, or engage in leisure activities at high altitudes are also heavily exposed to the sun for similar reasons. The sun’s UV rays can be amplified and cause more damage when they hit reflective surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow.

It is therefore particularly important to ensure adequate sun protection when you are in places or situations where you encounter these sun-enhancing factors, for example:

– while swimming
– to the beach
– You are walking on a cement sidewalk
– They shovel or play in the snow
It’s true that clouds block some UV rays. But more than 90% of the sun’s UV rays can still penetrate clouds and cause sunburn on partly cloudy days.

Types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation

The sun is the largest and only natural UV source we are exposed to. Artificial UV light sources such as solariums can also cause sunburn and are extremely dangerous. The sun emits not just one type of UV light, but three types. Each has different properties depending on energy level or wavelength and pose different risks to our health.

Ultraviolet A (UVA)

UVA rays have the longest wavelength. They penetrate the earth’s protective ozone layer and penetrate deep into our skin, resulting in tanning and sunburn. UVA rays can also cause genetic damage to skin cells and contribute significantly to the risk of skin cancer. Although weaker than the other two types of UV rays, UVA is emitted from the sun in fairly constant amounts throughout the year.

Ultraviolet B (UVB)

UVB rays have a medium wavelength. They penetrate the outermost layers of the skin and can also cause tanning and sunburn. The ozone layer absorbs some UVB rays before they reach Earth. Its levels change throughout the day and also with the seasons: UVB rays are strongest from late morning to afternoon and from spring to autumn in temperate climates. But UVB rays can damage your skin all year round.

Ultraviolet C (UVC)

UVC has the shortest wavelength. The ozone layer absorbs them completely, so they do not pose a major risk to human health.

Who is at increased risk of sunburn, even on cloudy days?

Some people also have an increased risk of sunburn on cloudy days. If you have any of the following risk factors, take extra precautions to protect yourself from the sun’s rays:

– you have light skin or light eyes
– you have had a sunburn in the past
– you are taking medicines that may increase sensitivity to the sun, such as B. Antibiotics and birth control pills
– You use certain skin care products known to increase the risk of sunburn, such as B. retinoids and benzoyl peroxide.
– A note on skin color

Dark-skinned people have higher levels of melanin than fair-skinned people. Melanin protects the skin from sun damage, but only up to a point. Also, people with darker skin, who have higher levels of melanin, are at risk of sun damage and skin cancer.

Sunburn Symptoms

Even on cloudy days, everyone runs the risk of getting sunburned. Sunburn symptoms can vary depending on the color of the skin and the severity of the sunburn. Sunburn usually shows its most intense symptoms 24 to 36 hours after sun exposure. It usually heals within a few days to a week.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of mild to moderate sunburn:

– Blow
– Confusion, weakness or fainting
– chills
– dry, itchy or scaly skin
– Fever
– Pains
– swelling
People with lighter skin almost always have a clear reddening next to the sunburn.

Severe sunburn

Severe sunburns, although less common, can have serious consequences that require immediate medical attention.

Call your local emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room if you have sunburn and:

– Symptoms of dehydration, such as dizziness, dizziness and extreme thirst
– a fast or weak pulse
– an irregular heartbeat
– Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing
– moist skin
– – dilated pupils
– chest pain
– nausea
– Confusion or fear
– unconsciousness

How to protect yourself from the sun in cloudy weather?

It is more beneficial to use several types of sun protection. There is nobody who can do everything.

On sunny or cloudy days, try to use as many of the following sun protection measures as possible:

– Cover your skin with clothing

– Wear sunglasses. UV exposure also increases the risk of serious eye diseases over time.

– Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of at least 30 (and 50 for skin that is more prone to sunburn). Apply generously and reapply as directed on the label.

– Stay outdoors in the shade, especially on days with a high UV index. Today’s UV Index can be found on most weather channels, apps and websites.

– Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap with a brim that covers your face.

– Try to go outside when the sun is at its weakest, early in the morning and in the evening.

Sunburns can be temporary, but the damage they cause to the skin is permanent.

What type of sunscreen should I wear on a cloudy day?

On an overcast day, apply the same sunscreen you would use on a sunny day, i.e. a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Note that naturally derived sunscreens that are “reef safe” are better too for our body and nature as they do not contain the toxic chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Cover all of your bare skin with sunscreen, including your hands, ears, and the back of your neck. Water-resistant sunscreens are best for people who are physically active or who spend time in or near water.

How much sunscreen should I apply on a cloudy day?

It is recommended that adults apply enough sunscreen per application to fully cover their body. That’s about the amount of sunscreen you can put in a shot glass. Make sure you work the sunscreen well into your skin. Sunscreen takes about 15 minutes to absorb into the skin, so it’s best to apply it before going outside.

Reapply your sunscreen every two hours of sun exposure.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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