Posts Tagged ‘sunburn’


I’d like to make my annual plea for the liberal use of sunscreen to protect all of us — young and old — from the damaging effects of the sun.  Please understand that the “healthy” bronze tan color that many people seek is actually how the skin demonstrates that it has been damaged by the sun.

The sun produces two types of invisible light. One is ultraviolet A (UVA), which is the ray that produces a tan but causes skin damage and aging, (think wrinkles and “old age” skin spots). The other is ultraviolet B (UVB), which causes the uncomfortable sunburn.

Both types can cause skin cancer, especially the deadly melanoma. This year in the U.S. there will be approximately 76,000 new cases of melanoma with some 9,000 deaths. These statistics can be reduced significantly by protecting our skin from the sun.

The damaging rays from the sun are most intense between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM.

These are my suggestions:

  • Always start the summer season with a new fresh tube of sunscreen; price has nothing to do with performance.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SFP rating of at least 30. Higher than 50 is probably not necessary.
  • A sunscreen should be labeled “broad spectrum” protecting against both UVA and UVB and be water/sweat resistant.
  • Use at least 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) for your entire body, and apply liberally to the face, ears, and neck.
  • Don’t overlook applying to feet, back of neck, and bald spots.
  •  Apply at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter and more frequently if swimming or sweating profusely.
  • Avoid using sunscreen sprays on children as they can inhale the chemical ingredients. Use the lotion form only.
  • Whenever possible, wear light colored tight knit clothing and brimmed hats while in the sun.
  • Avoid tanning salons where damage — similar to the effects of the sun — can be done to the skin.

A sunscreen that has always been a favorite of mine, and one just recently highly recommended by Consumer Reports Magazine, is a brand called “NO-AD.” This product comes with an SPF of either 30 or 45, and is one of the cheapest sun screen products on the shelves.

Enjoy your outdoor summer activities, but do yourselves and especially your children a favor, and protect your/their skin from both damage and cancer by properly using a good sunscreen product.

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Over the years of my emergency and urgent-care career, I’ve dealt with many injuries and illnesses seen commonly during the summer. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on making this a safe season for everyone.

**Sunscreen: Almost everyone who spends time out in the sun must wear sunscreen to block the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on our sensitive skin. Use a sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF rating of at least 30. Apply it liberally and often — at least every two hours. Parents, protect your children’s precious skin.

**Insects: Beware of the many summer bugs lurking out there. For mosquito protection, use a repellent that contains DEET, which, when used as directed, is safe for adults and children older than 2 months.

Regarding stinging insects such as yellowjackets, wasps and honeybees, avoid them if they are nearby. If you are stung by a honey bee, which is the only stinging insect that leaves a stinger behind in the skin, remove it as quickly as possible, by any means possible. It is now deemed OK to pull it out with your fingers and not waste time finding something with which to scrape it off. Immediately apply ice to the sting.

When out in a wooded or grassy area, always check your entire body for ticks when you get home. If you find one, remove it as soon as possible by getting a pair of tweezers, grabbing the tick close to the skin and pulling it straight out.

**Poison oak: The best protection is to recognize it and avoid it. If you touch poison oak with your skin, clothing (including shoes and shoe laces) or garden tools, wash them immediately with soap and water. Poison oak oil must be washed off the skin within a few minutes to avoid the dreaded rash. Remember, all parts of the poison oak plant contain the nasty oil, including the leaves, branches and roots.

**Heat: Heat exhaustion is evidenced by extreme sweating, fatigue and cramps. Heat stroke (a life-threatening condition) is characterized by lack of sweating; red, hot skin; and a very high body temperature. Both conditions can usually be prevented by drinking plenty of liquids and avoiding direct sun as much as possible, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

**Water safety: About 4,000 Americans drown every year — and men are four times more likely to drown than women. Alcohol is frequently involved. Make sure children are supervised in the water every single minute. Watch out for rapid currents, riptides and rocks, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Boat injuries claim another 700 lives a year. Drive your boat sensibly, have enough life preservers on board, and do not drink alcohol and drive.

**Bicycling: Wear a helmet! No matter how obvious this bit of advice is, I still see people riding without a helmet, and I cringe when I see children without this life-saving protection. Head injuries are often very serious, if not deadly, and are inexcusable for lack of a helmet. Be aware of your surroundings, and be in control of your bike at all times. Don’t take foolish chances.

**Eating: Summer picnics can be a common source of food poisoning, manifested by vomiting or diarrhea. Food left out too long is the usual culprit. Handling uncooked chicken or eating undercooked chicken is also a common source of illness.

**Driving: We all drive more during the summer. The cheapest form of life insurance while you are in a car is the good old seat belt. Wear it! Also, make sure children are in proper, age-appropriate car seats. Hand-held cell phone use while driving your car is a significant cause of accidents and is now illegal.

Have a very enjoyable — and very safe — summer.

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Summer Sun

Summer is here and many of us are being exposed to an abundance of sunshine. I’d like to explain how we can best avoid the harmful effects of the sun.

We all know that the sun provides visible light to our earth, but it also provides invisible light called ultraviolet rays of which there are two types. Ultraviolet A (UVA) causes skin aging and skin cancer, not visual sunburn.  Ultraviolet B (UVB) is what actually causes the traditional sunburn. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Some people are more sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun. Those who have blond or red hair, light colored skin and light colored eyes will get sunburn quicker than those with darker skin and eyes.

Sunlight damages the skin in the same manner as a heat burn, causing symptoms ranging from a first degree red, hot painful burn to a second degree burn causing blisters and deeper damage to the skin.  Unprotected long term exposure to sunlight will cause wrinkling of the skin with the appearance of premature aging.  The most serious effect of sun damage is the increased chance of developing a deadly skin cancer called melanoma.

The best protection against the damaging effects of the sun is to have your skin covered by clothing to the greatest extent possible.  Wear light colored tightly woven clothing. If impractical to be protected by clothing, then a sunscreen lotion is necessary.

Sunscreens are rated by a code called SPF (sun protection factor) which you will see on the label of all sunscreens.  It rates how long a person can be in the sun without being burned.  There is no proof that SPF ratings over 30 give any measurable benefit. Most sunscreens now protect against both UVA and UVB. Check the label before you buy a sunscreen lotion.

Proper application is the key to success. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure.  Use about 1 teaspoon per body part such as the face, an arm or a leg.  Use 2 tablespoons (comparable to a shot glass) to cover the body when wearing a bathing suit.

Most sunscreen lotions are labeled either “water proof” or “water resistant.”  Even these need to be reapplied after swimming, towel drying, or heavy sweating. Read the directions on the label.

Apply the sunscreen to all exposed body parts especially those often overlooked such as tops of ears and feet, back of the neck, face and bald spots.


  • Avoid sun exposure especially between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 pm.
  • Always wear sunscreen and reapply frequently, at least every 2-3 hours, or more frequently if your skin gets wet from swimming or sweating.  One application in the morning will not protect you through the whole day.
  • Keep yourself covered with light colored tightly knit clothing as much as possible.
  • Avoid tanning salons.
  • See your doctor if you have a sunburn and are experiencing unbearable pain or significant blistering.
  • Check your skin (all areas) regularly for any unusual dark lesions.
  • Protect your eyes with UV rated sunglasses.

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