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Can I Get “Sunburn” On A Plane?

Sunburn On A Plane? Really?

An hour of sun on an airplane is the same exposure as 20 minutes in a tanning bed. -Coolibar (UPF Clothing) statement.

can you get a sunburn on a plane?


Scare tactics or true? This caught my attention yesterday while was looking through an advertizement for Coolibar UPF Clothing. They really do have some attractive styles and colors.

I am a doubting Thomas. This does not mean I don’t belive what I read. Just a few months ago I read about some weight-loss pills that would make me wake up 2 pounds thinner the next morning.

True statement? Well, maybe they will help you wake up thinner. I have been taking them for 2 months, and the scales remain stuck on overload.

That was the latest falsehood I belived, I would like it to be the last.

So in an effort to shed some truth to this statement I opened a new file to record my findings in. Opened a new window and typed, “Can I get sunburn on a plane?”

Sunburn On A Plane?

First I checked out Dr. Doris Day, a New York City dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift,  to weigh in on this topic. In her words, “it could be a concern.”

The short answer from Dr Day?  Yes. It’s possible to get sunburned on a plane. You are more likely to get too much UVA exposure on your skin in a plane.

“The fact is, flying at 30,000 feet [for 60 minutes] can be as dangerous as 20 minutes in a tanning bed,” Day said. This is why our skin starts looking old with lines and wrinkles.

  • Why flying at cruising altitude, you are almost 6 miles closer to the sun.
  • Lounging around poolside suddenly seems safer. That is only part of the story.
  • The UV rays through a planes window can be a threat to your skin.

The Cancer Council.org aus Opinion

This is based n a study done in 2015. They could find no actual evidence to support getting a sunburn on a commercial airline flight.

Excessive (not explained how much is excessive) exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can contribute to the development of melanoma (the most dagerous and deadly skin cancer ) and other skin cancers.

The sun has two kinds of ultraviolet rays that harm the skin.

UVB penetrates the top layers of the skin, causes sunburn and is the major cause of skin cancer. This one is the one that will cause sunburn.

UVA penetrates deeper into the skin causing damage to the skin collagen and elastin. This causes premature skin ageing and as well as skin cancer. There is plenty of exposure to the UVA rays through a window seat on a plane. These rays go wherever the light goes. So, while a window seat is more dangerous, all seats recieve some light.

So No Sunburn? But I Still Need Sunscreen?

You thought you only needed to pack sunscreen for a beach vacation? sorry, think again. You’re at risk for sun damage every time you board an airplane.

A study in 2015 reported that, when compared with the average members of the population, pilots and cabin crew had around twice the rate of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

However, they were not able to deternine if this was caused by exposure to UV radiation in the aircraft while working. It could have been because of the leisure time activities that so many of the airline employees chose.

An other factor, the disruption of the employees circadian rhythms, could also contribute to the elevated rate of cancer in airline crew.

(A circadian rhythm, or circadian cycle, is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. Wikipedia )

UV radiation increases when you go into higher altitude.

Some commercial aircraft windshields do let through a small amount of UV through. However, most modern aircraft windshields provide almost a total block. So future damage should be no higher than other professions.

So Can I Get A Tan On A Plane?

Where UVA does penetrate the windshield, it could have an impact on the melanoma incidence for pilots. More research is needed. Older planes have higher risk of the older kinds of windows.

The windows in the passenger cabin are generally constructed of three layers of plastic.

There layers will give you highly effective windows that block both UVA and UVB rays. This gives the passengers decent protection from the sun’s rays. However, decent protection is not what I want when protecting from aging. I will be using sunscreen or sun block lotion when we get to travel again.

Most melanomas are the result of repeated exposure. Until the tanning beds hit the market, outdoor exposure to the sun’s UV radiation, without the use of sun protection was thought to be the cause. 

As more research is done, this thinking may change. Until then practice safe sun habits. Use sunscreen as you would for any day you will be out in your vehicle, walking outside or any of the other things we do that allows us to get some sun exposure.

As with all research, realize that you have to practice common sense. The findings in a research are simply that. The average of a bunch of people with similar behavior. This does not take into account your risk factors.

Sunburn Protections A New Way Of Life

We are aware that the glass or plastic material that windows are made of in a plane does block standard UVB rays. And we know that the more harmful UVA rays could still pass through.

“We now know that all wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation are known carcinogens,” Dr Day said. “Enough exposure will lead to both premature aging and skin cancer.”

Pilots, have a known higher incidence of skin cancer.

Experts think this could be due to regular, extended flight time in front of a large window. Consider the hours they are behind the window, and yes, it seems airlines flight crews have thought about the possibility of aging their skin.

Even though you’re sitting next to a small window (and probably spending far less time in the sky than pilots), it’s important for each of us to take precautions while traveling.

Fortunately, you don’t have to abstain from the window seat altogether. So while you should not sunburn, you may be exposed to the aging rays.

“Keep the blinds down when you can, and wear sun protection that is broad spectrum and specifically says UVA protection,” Dr Day also suggestes.

If you’re a frequent flyer and are still concerned about clocking too many hours of sunlight on an airplane, consider moving over away from the window.

If your skin gets dry on flights because of the drop in humidity, you can apply a moisturizer with SPF. This will help to restore your skin’s hydration while protecting your skin from harmful radiation.

Awareness Of Sunburn Dangers On A Plane

While it does seem that all the technology is helping keep us safer while on a flight, we do need to pay attention. Applying a good layer of sunscreen before a flight is not too much trouble. If your next flight is on an airline that has not made all the windows sunsafe, you are ready.

Another way to protect your skin while flying is by wearing sun blocking clothing. A light weight loose fitting lonsleeve shirt that has a stand up collar to pull up while in the air. One of the new light weight sun blankets to keep the sun off your arms, neck and throat.

Sunblock clothing is great for light weight protection agnist the sun. It is easy to pack and does an excellent job of protecting you from the sun.

Now for a quick rundown on when you need sun blocking clothing.

How Sun Blocking Clothing Helps Protect Your Skin

Sun blocking Clothing can make your skin safer on your trip, as well as in your everyday life.

When you are thinking about getting yourself an item or two of sun blocking clothing, think about when the sun gets on you. And where you have had a light sunburn or a lot of sunburn. That is where you want protection.

For me, I have never blistered under my swimsuit. So a sun proof swim suit is not important. A good coverup to wrap up in after swimming? Now that is getting to the parts of the body where I sunburn, and that is important.

After surviving a flight to my vacation destination, I do not want to sunburn at the beach.

A sun blocking hat is important to keep the sun from causing damage to my face, neck and throat. My ears, nose and forehead. Those are the places I sunburn. My sunglasses to protect my eyes.

Think about yourself. Where do you sunburn? How could you help yourself stay safe while enjoying some time in the sun?

Learn How To Protect Your Skin

Sami’s Take On Can I get A Sunburn On A Plane?

I had in my ignorance not taken into consideration the dangers of the UVA rays from the sun. As a child I did get a sunburn while riding with my granparents in a car. I went to sleep on the ledge behind the back seat agnist the window.

I am sure they were just glad to have me go to sleep and give them some quiet time on the long days drive. But I did not transfer that to a plane’s window. The windows on a plane are usually cool to the touch, so I had not considered the safety for blocking the sun.

I just want you to be able to avoid my sun mistakes. I had so much to learn. So much I did not know. Now you are more aware. You can take better care of yourself and your family in the sun.

Remember, sun blocking clothing where the sun hits your skin. Stay covered up so that your skin stays healthy and able to keep you safe.

Do you know what function your skin does?

“Provides a protective barrier against mechanical, thermal and physical injury and hazardous substances. Prevents loss of moisture. Reduces harmful effects of UV radiation. Acts as a sensory organ (touch, detects temperature).” Wikipedia

Protect your skin from the sun.

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