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Daily Archives: June 17th, 2013

I’m sure you’ve heard of sunburns. The sun, while totally necessary for sustaining life on this planet, can also be a big jerk sometimes. It casts out UV rays that damage, among other things, your skin. A sunburn can result in reddened skin, fatigue, itching, and soreness in mild cases. A severe case might involve blisters, fever, nausea, pain, and even fainting. And of course there’s the wonderful sloughing off of dead skin as you heal. That’s always very attractive.

Now, that’s caused just by the sun. And you easily can prevent sunburn by wearing protective clothing or applying sunscreen (with regularity). But did you know that the sun can still burn you even when you take care to protect yourself from it? It can. Because the sun has pals.

Photodermatitis. Photodermatitis is your skin’s allergic reaction to a substance that is only evinced when exposed to sunlight. That’s right, you can be totally fine while you’re in the house, but then you spend some time in the sun and then BAM! You’ve got symptoms of sunburn. Plus, affected areas tend to turn an orangey-brown color. And of course, you’re not affected evenly across your skin. You’ll probably have these weird orange blotches over your exposed skin. It’s very attractive.

Now, you can actually avoid photodermatitis by covering your skin from sun exposure, but sunscreen obviously doesn’t work. Actually, certain sunscreens can cause photodermatitis. PABA, an ingredient in some sunscreens, has been shown to cause photodermatitis in some people. Also, NSAIDs, very common painkillers, have been shown to do the same thing. Think of how common it is to take some Ibuprofen for joint pain or a headache. Maybe that was keeping you inside. But now that you’re pain free, you’re ready to go outside for a run or do some gardening, and then BAM! You find yourself developing orange splots over your skin.

Phytophotodermatitis. Speaking of gardening, what if you were out in your garden and for some reason you found some wild carrots or wild parsnips growing? What if you decided to pull them out with your bare hands? What if you were wearing a tee shirt and shorts and sandals because it was hot? What if you found yourself with weird sunburn-like symptoms a day or two later even if you hadn’t been in the sun since gardening? Welp, that’s phytophotodermatitis. Photodermatitis, but caused by plants.

Certain plants, like wild parsnips, have chemicals (furocoumarins) in the leaves that react with the sun causing a skin reaction. Said plants are actually very common in places like Wisconsin. Said plants with said chemicals react to UV radiation, so you may think you’re ok on an overcast day when you go out on a hike in shorts, but you are not. Because while here is less visible light from the sun due to cloud cover, UV rays are still present in abundance. You won’t know that you have been affected right away either, because it takes a day or so before symptoms occur. Isn’t that fun? Oh, and don’t forget that wild parsnips look pretty innocuous. Not like poison ivy (which does not cause phytophotodermatitis).

Now, none of these things would kill a normal, healthy person. But it would make a normal, healthy person pretty uncomfortable due to the actual physical symptoms and the social outcastism. I mean, who wants to go out in public when they’re in full molt? Or how about if you have a blister the size of a grapefruit on your leg? It’s pretty unlikely you’d be able to cover that up. Even if you could, your pants, or whatever, would hang pretty weirdly over this grapefruit sized bump on your leg and still be pretty noticeable. And what if that blister is on the inside of your leg? You’d have to walk all bowlegged because you’d want to avoid popping the blister (I pop my blisters all the time though because I think they’re really annoying).

But say you popped your blister and then it got infected. And you didn’t take care of it because you didn’t think much of a sunburn or sunburn-like symptoms. And then you got gangrene. But you didn’t know what gangrene was. So you didn’t take care of it. And then you died because gangrene is fatal if you don’t do anything about it. Because think about it, a large part of your body has died but is still connected to your still living body. I somehow don’t think you’re going to survive a battle against your own dead body.

So, nature is out to kill you.