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Ask Doctor Cory.

Dear Dr. Cory:

What are windburns, and what causes them? Why do they hurt more than sunburns?

Katie Wells Reno, Nevada

Dear Katie:

A windburn is an irritation or chapping of the skin due to wind. Wind blows heat away from the skin and dries it out.

Sunburn is caused by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. You cannot see these rays, but they are present on cloudy days as well as sunny days.

Sunburns destroy skin cells. They commonly cause two types of burns:

* First-degree burns: the first layer of skin has been burned, but not burned through. The skin becomes dry and pink. There are no blisters and only minor pain.

* Second-degree burns: the first and second layers of skin have been burned. Second-degree burns result in the skin blistering and an increase of redness and swelling.

Because a sunburn actually destroys skin cells, it is usually more painful and damaging than a windburn. You may have experienced a sunburn on top of a windburn, which is why you thought the windburn to be more painful.

Be Sun Smart

Protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun with Slip, Slop, Slap!

* Slip on clothing to cover your skin. Wear dry, tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing.

* Slop on sunscreen whenever you are outside. Don't forget your lips, ears, neck, the backs of your hands, and the tops of your feet. Waterproof sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher are the best. Use one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

* Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.

* Avoid the sun between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., when its rays are the strongest.

* Protect yourself year-round from the sun--on cloudy days as well as sunny days.

* Wear sunglasses that give 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.

Dear Dr, Cory:

Every summer I get a hundred bug bites, and they always itch like crazy. I know once they bite you, they put their spit inside you to replace the blood. But why does it itch so much?

Kera Ren Waldorf, Maryland

Dear Kera:

You must be talking about the mosquito, which sucks blood directly from a tiny capillary (a very small blood vessel). Saliva from the mosquito keeps the blood from clotting so she can easily feed. It doesn't really replace your blood. Your body reacts to the saliva by releasing a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes blood vessels near the bite to enlarge, causing the area to become red and swollen. Histamine irritates nerve endings in the skin, which makes you itch.

The best treatment for a mosquito bite is to wash it with soap and warm water. Use hydrocortisone cream to help stop the itching. Try not to scratch the bites. They can easily become infected.

Mosquito Tips

* Mosquitoes usually attack exposed parts of the body, such as the face, neck, arms, and legs. But they can bite through thin clothing, too.

* Mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide we give off in our breath and skin, and the warmth and moisture of our skin, including sweat.

* If you know that you will be outside when mosquitoes might be biting, use an insect repellent that is safe for children. Stay away from areas where water collects and stands (stagnant water); this is where mosquitoes like to lay their eggs.

Dear Dr. Cory:

I have allergies. Why do people have them?

Shanice Edwards Brooklyn, New York

Why are people allergic to things?

Amanda Angell Randolph Center, Vermont

Dear Shanice and Amanda:

Allergens (objects or chemicals, such as pollen, dust, mold, and some foods or drugs that trigger allergies) are not normally harmful to the body. But in people with allergies, the body reacts to the allergen like it is something trying to cause an illness. When the body comes in contact with an allergen, it makes antibodies to that allergen. The antibodies start the allergic process. They cause mast cells to release chemicals, such as histamine. This causes allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, skin rashes, and wheezing.

It is not known why some people get allergies and others do not. However, if your parents have allergies, there's a good chance that you'll have allergies, too.

A person must have contact with an allergen to develop an allergy. For example, many people who have never lived in the United States have never had contact with ragweed pollen. Ragweed is a very powerful allergy-causing plant. Although these people had no ragweed allergies before moving here, they may develop ragweed allergies a few years after moving here. This is because they have come in contact with ragweed pollen for the first time.

Your friend,

Cory SerVaas, M.D.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Children's Playmate
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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