Suntan - and Sunburn

The noonday sun may be fine for some people, but it can be murder for fair-skinned persons. If you're bent on getting a tan, don't overdo it. Remember, too much sunning can be dangerous. If you are over age 50, it can lead to heat prostration, sunstroke, and severe burns; it can aggravate some serious diseases. And prolonged overexposure is pinpointed as the leading cause of skin cancer. At least 110,000 cases of this will show up in the UK. this year.

Light-skinned persons - especially red-heads and blonds - are most vulnerable to skin cancer because their skins can't build up protective pigment against the sun's burning rays (strongest from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.). So if exposure to the sun usually turns you lobster-red, it's wise to cover up. Clothing will absorb virtually all ultraviolet rays.

Note: Modern medicines can play tricks even on experienced sunbathers. If you're taking antibiotics (especially tetracyclines), tranquilizers, diuretics, anti-diabetics, or anti-fungus agents, check with your doctor. Otherwise you may wind up with a severe burn, rash, or hives.

Sunbathers with none of those problems still face a difficulty: selecting a worthwhile suntan lotion from among the scores of brands. One of the more effective ones is plain zinc oxide. But you have to apply it heavily in white blotches, so it won't help your appearance. Your best bet is to check lotion labels carefully and pick a bottle that contains one or another of these sun screening agents: para-aminobenzoate (PABA), anthranilate, benzimidazole, benzophenone, cinnamate, or salicylate. These chemicals absorb the harmful ultraviolet rays before they hit the skin. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital recently found that preparations containing PA BA or closely related substances that have been dissolved in ethyl alcohol provide the most effective protection.

Even if you tan well, spend no more than 15 to 30 minutes in the sun your first day out. Increase the time gradually. But keep shaded the following day if you're still red or your burn will be doubly severe. The best treatment for painful redness is to apply a cool compress (whole milk is soothing) and then dab on mineral oil. You'll probably stop looking like a lobster after three days. If you're overdone to the point of severe burn, chills, fever, blistering, and even infection, you'll need a doctor's care.

Chronically overexposed sun worshippers - particularly those with heavily freckled, leathery skin - should see a doctor if they spot a horny skin growth (keratosis) or notice changes in any existing growths. Skin cancer is the most curable as well as most common form of cancer in this country, with more than 90% of all patients recovering fully if treated reasonably early. Most vulnerable skin areas are those most in the sun: face, ears, back of the neck, arms, and hands.

Find Out More About The Hand-holders: Reaching Down To Small Potatoes

The Desert Air: In Your House

During the winter heating season, the average British home is drier than the Sahara Desert - relative humidity of 13% to 15% vs. the desert's 25%. And this low humidity draws a lot of the blame for winter colds. It makes the entire respiratory tract more vulnerable to infection, chronic hoarseness, and coughing. The older you are, the more the discomfort and hazard.

One solution is to install a home humidifier - which can raise relative humidity to 35% or 45%. Large 40-1b. console-style humidifiers are equipped with humidistats to give proper moisture control. Cost: £100. Using about a gallon of water per day per room they humidify six to eight rooms for 24 hours before needing a... see: The Desert Air: In Your House