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Summer Should Be Fun…and Safe

Oh, summer, where have you been? Longer days and later nights, the sound of kids playing in the neighborhood, snow cones, swimsuits and sprinklers, carnivals, camping, and family vacations. Summer is a time when people and their families make memories enjoying the outdoors. It’s supposed to be filled with fun, so here are a few reminders to ensure it stays safe while having fun.

All the cool kids are wearing helmets. Summer is when kids love riding their bikes, rollerblading, skateboarding, and using motorized scooters. Encourage your children to wear a helmet, and explain that it just may save their life. Many injuries happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you, so set the example. When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard. A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head and covers the forehead, not tipped forward or backward. The strap should be securely fastened with about two fingers able to fit between chin and strap. The helmet should be snug on the head, but not overly tight.

Streets are for cars, not kids. Teach your children road safety.

  • Teach them to use crosswalks, if available.
  • Teach them when you should cross and when you shouldn’t. Look both ways.
  • Encourage them to ride bikes on the sidewalks instead of streets.
  • Playtime should have restrictions. Your kids should never play where vehicles are moving.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing so they stand out to drivers.

Sunburns hurt. They can also be dangerous. So, power through the tantrums and resistant behavior when applying sunscreen to your kids. They will thank you when they’re older (or maybe not). Tips for sun protection include wearing hats, using long sleeves or pants when in the sun for extended times, and of course using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or higher.  Canyon View Medical has some fantastic blogs on sunscreen. Check these out. Skin Protection by Dr. Paxton, How to Pick the Right Sunscreen by Kristen Wright, FNP.

Hot cars can be killers. NEVER leave your infants and children (or pets) in a car unattended. NOT EVEN for a minute. We hear about cases every year, yet Utah continues to have heat stroke-related deaths due to parents leaving their children in the car. In fact, according to the Utah Department of Health, on average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. In more than half of these deaths, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car. In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars across the U.S., and by June of 2019, we had already seen 11 deaths nationwide. It may be tempting to run into the gas station while your baby sleeps, or leave your toddler in the car while you drop something off at a friend’s house, but it’s best if you don’t. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and keep getting hotter with each passing minute. So, imagine what happens when the temperature outside is 100 degrees or more. Keep in mind that leaving a window open or being in the shade won’t help. Young children are particularly at risk, as their body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child could die. It’s not worth it.

Pools are fun until they’re not. Water safety is important. You may have heard that drowning is the second most likely cause of death for kids 1-4 years of age (only after birth defects), but did you know that 69% of drownings occur during non-swim times? This means most drownings occur during unexpected and unsupervised access to water. Toddlers are, by nature, curious and active. Water safety is important at all ages, but especially for mobile children under 4. Make sure your toddlers don’t have access to indoor and outdoor standing water (i.e. swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, natural bodies of water such as ponds, buckets filled with water, toilets, birdbaths, etc.). Swimming lessons are encouraged. All children should wear a life-jacket when near lakes and rivers, even if they can swim.

Water should be a food group. Make sure your kids drink plenty of water while in the heat of summer, even if they don’t feel thirsty. If possible, avoid activity during the hottest part of the day. Stay hydrated.

References:

www.healthychildren.org, an American Academy of Pediatrics website

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Summer-Safety-Tips-Staying-Safe-Outdoors.aspx

https://www.safekids.org/heatstroke

https://health.utah.gov/featured-news/officials-warn-of-deadly-temperatures

https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Bicycle-Helmets/

https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.aspx

Skin Protection – More Fun in the Sun

Spring – a common time for sunburn

Spring is a wonderful time of year for many reasons. The days are getting longer, the winter illness season is coming to an end, and many outdoor activities are beckoning once again. However, it is also the time of year when many severe sunburns occur. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Many people’s skin is quite pale after the long winter, and more vulnerable to burn.
  2. The air is generally cooler than in the summer, so it is more difficult to feel when a burn is occurring.
  3. The sun is getting higher in the sky, so the rays are becoming more direct, and are therefore more likely to cause skin injury.
  4. Spring sports and yard work can abruptly increase the amount of time people spend outdoors.
  5. Some people are anxious to get tan after winter and try to do it all at once.
  6. While we associate many summer activities with the need for sun protection, spring activities often don’t trigger this thought.

Preventing sunburn is important

There are many health hazards associated with sunburn, the most serious of which is the aggressive form of skin cancer known as melanoma. Occasionally, this type of cancer is diagnosed in people in their teens. Exposure to the sun’s radiation increases the risk of genetic mutations in our skin cells which can lead to this dreaded condition. 

But that’s not the only reason to avoid getting burned. These are true burns and can range in severity from superficial first degree burns with only mild discomfort, to deep second degree burns with blistering, extreme pain, and sometimes permanent skin changes. The younger a child is when sunburn occurs, the more severe the damage is likely to be. 

Another concern with sunburn is the increased risk of other heat-related injuries. Someone with a severe sunburn is more likely to suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can lead to severe illness and even death. Occasionally, sunburns can affect a large enough portion of the body to cause the serious conditions associated with other significant burns, including susceptibility to infections and temperature regulation problems.

How to protect our children (and ourselves)

As with many things relating to our health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We should think about sun protection every day. Here are a few specifics that may help:

  1. Sun protective clothing and hats are usually the most effective means of preventing skin injury due to the sun, especially in infants and toddlers.
  2. Sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 30, is important to use on exposed skin.
    1. It should be applied about 20-30 minutes before sun exposure, sweating, or getting wet.
    2. Be sure to use enough. For an adult, this might mean up to 1-2 ounces per application.
    3. Reapply after getting wet, even if the sunscreen claims to be waterproof.
    4. Sunscreen can be used on babies, but the time spent in the sun should be very limited in this vulnerable population.
    5. Remember that sunscreen and insect repellent often don’t go well together, and may even inactivate each other. Read the labels carefully.
  3. Beware of reflected sun, whether from snow or water or even concrete, as this can greatly increase sun exposure, especially in young ones.
  4. Pay attention to the UV index, found on most weather reports and apps, to know when the sun will be most likely to cause harm.
  5. Avoid being outside between the hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM as this is when the UV index is typically highest.
  6. Wear sunglasses which block 100% of the UVA and UVB rays, because eyes can get sunburned too.
  7. Avoid the use of tanning oils and creams as these do not block the sun’s harmful rays.
  8. Never use tanning beds, especially children and teens, as this direct exposure to harmful UV rays greatly increases the risk of the problems mentioned above.

As pediatricians, we strongly encourage outdoor activities because of the many health benefits they provide. Most adults, and many children, would do well to spend more time out of doors. We should also focus on doing so in a safe manner, so as not to cause unintended harm. By keeping these simple ideas about sun protection in mind, we can all better enjoy this wonderful spring season and the summer which is just around the corner.

What’s In Your Sunscreen?

Many times, when I ask my patients if they use sunscreen or protect their skin from the sun, I hear, “I don’t use sunscreen. I don’t like how it makes me feel greasy.” or “No, I don’t like all those chemicals.” or sometimes patients reply “Yes,” when the answer is really no, for a variety of reasons (ie: they don’t think about it, they are out in the sun longer than intended, they are lazy, they don’t trust the FDA or government, they don’t want to be told what to do, they think sunscreen causes cancer, etc.). These are all appropriate responses.  Sunscreens do feel greasy, AND they are typically made up of synthetic chemical combinations, AND we don’t know everything about the lotions we are slathering onto our skin. 

What we do know is that excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays (via sunlight) can have damaging effects on our body.  The energy our skin is exposed to, through UV rays, causes the skin to burn, encourages breakdown and damage of the structural components of skin (which leads to wrinkles and permanent discoloration) and can alter DNA, which causes typical regulatory mechanisms of cells to malfunction, allowing for cancer cells to form.  

This article will help you understand the different types of sunscreen and chemical ingredients used so you can choose how to protect your skin from the damage and destruction incurred after repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

You first need a brief history of chemical licensing in America to understand where we are today in regards to licensing and labeling practices of skin and beauty products in the U.S.  Over the past century, our culture has shifted dramatically; from a small town, barter-for-service, self-reliant and self-sufficient way of living to an effective, highly-efficient and completely interdependent global market and economic system. The federal government first became involved in protecting consumers from unsafe and mislabeled food products from crossing state lines over 100 years ago. As our country continued to develop and advance, it became evident that pharmaceuticals and consumer products needed clear rules and meticulous practices in place to evaluate their safety and efficacy before being released unleashed to the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was established after a series of deaths occurred (related to untested drugs in the 30’s) to help protect consumers from unsafe and harmful products related to foods, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. 

However, advancements in technology and trade were faster than the original laws could be amended and America has ended up with a plethora of chemicals used in all sorts of products from pesticides for crop production to steroid injections used to treat herniated discs. In 2012, there were approximately 84,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States in all sorts of products. Many of the chemicals were “grandfathered” into the system because they had been used in various products for 50 to 100 years and the rules at the time of licensure application weren’t as stringent as they are now.  This means we don’t have comprehensive safety data on the majority of chemicals used in personal care products. Testing and safety initially was the responsibility of the manufacturer, which inherently creates some bias. New laws passed in 2016, requires comprehensive testing on chemicals, both new and previously registered ones.  As you can imagine, however, going back and testing previously registered chemicals will be a lengthy process. 

In light of this understanding, there are outspoken critics of sunscreens regarding their safety on personal health and the environment. As you do your own research, you may find yourself getting sucked into the deep abyss of the internet and wonder what’s right, what’s safe, what to use and what to do.  Evaluate the credentials, training, and experience of the author of the article or blog you read. Educate yourself with the facts and then make meaningful decisions regarding your health. As we explore the world of chemicals, let’s look at the basic types of sunscreen products, how they work and possible concerns because of the chemical ingredients used.

There are two basic types of sunscreen. 

I. Inorganic filters are typically referred to as mineral sunscreens.  They use inorganic particles to physically block the sun’s rays by reflecting and scattering ultraviolet waves before they penetrate the skin.  These physical barriers used to look like white paint on the skin but advancements in technology now allow us to make these inorganic, physical barriers a clear and smooth protective coat on the skin using nanotechnology.  These nanoparticles are so small they are invisible to the human eye.

The most common ingredients in mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  Some are marketed as “natural”, “organic” or “reef safe”.  These are marketing terms that lack a clear definition. Zinc-based products will offer good broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, preventing deep structural damage to the skin as well as decreasing the risk of sunburn, while titanium-based formulations shieldless of the UVA rays that are primarily responsible for premature aging and wrinkles.

II. The other major type of sunscreen uses chemical blockers or organic filters, meaning they are derived from living matter. These chemical blockers are absorbed into the skin (which is why they need to be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure) where they have the ability to absorb and convert the energy in the UV rays into heat, which prevents UV penetration into the skin. Chemical sunscreens are more difficult to sort through because of the vast types of chemical combinations that are used to achieve broad-spectrum coverage with adequate SPF protection. 

Here are a few common ingredients worth noting.  These chemicals may be used in a variety of products, not just sunscreen. 

  • Oxybenzone is extremely effective at shielding the skin from UVA and UVB rays, hence it is widely used in sunscreens.  The concerns are that oxybenzone may cause allergic reactions in some people, it is one of the most damaging influences on coral-reef systems (along with tourism, pollution, global warming and fishing practices) and traces of oxybenzone have been found in blood samples of some people.  This may be because sunscreen is more frequently and generously applied than it used to be because people are asked to wear it every day, not just on a day spent playing at the beach.  Some animal studies show that it may have a mild estrogenic effect, however, significant amounts would need to be applied to achieve this. For these reasons, the percent of oxybenzone allowed in sunscreen has been limited to allow health researchers more time to study the effects of this chemical.  Oxybenzone has been used since the 1970s without reports of harmful side effects in humans, but still merits close observation.
  • Octinoxate has also been implicated as having negative effects on coral health.  Sunscreens that say they are “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” are generally referring to the fact they don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate.  These terms are not clearly defined or regulated by the FDA.
  • Para Amino Benzoic Acid (PABA) may cause photosensitivity or allergic reactions in a small percentage of people. If you experience these types of sensitivities, look for “PABA free” on the label.
  • Parabens are preservatives that are found in some skin-care products & sunscreens and may have some environmental concerns or general health questions.  Products labeled “paraben-free” don’t contain ingredients such as methylparaben or butylparaben.
  • Fragrances should be avoided as they may trigger allergic reactions or burn and irritate your eyes.
  • Nanoparticles (as mentioned earlier) are tiny particles that we can’t visibly see but are able to easily pass through cell membranes.  This may be very helpful in some circumstances, however, may be a concern in other situations. Nanoparticles are a relatively new technology and their properties are not fully understood yet, thus be aware of this when selecting a sunscreen.  To date, detrimental effects from nanoparticles have not been found. Marketing terms of “nano-free” or “non-nano” are not clearly defined by the FDA but indicates that this specialized type of technology hasn’t been used.   

NOTE:  There are new sunscreen ingredients awaiting FDA approval. Europe classifies sunscreen as a cosmetic and has different regulatory standards than the US where sunscreen is classified as an over-the-counter drug. Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) is one newer filter available in the US.  It is a good UVA absorber. Tinosorb is a good filter of UVA and UVB rays, but is still awaiting approval.

Some kind of chemical vehicle is required to allow sunscreen to be absorbed into the skin in order to prevent the UV rays from penetrating into the dermal layers.  Other common products include salicylates (e.g. octisalate, homosalate, and trolamine salicylate), which are weak UVB absorbers. They require a combination with other filters, such as cinnamates (which are potent UVB absorbers) or avobenzone (which is a UVA absorber but may be rendered ineffective in the presence of other specific ingredients).

Even though all this talk about chemicals, filters, particles and substances may be a little unsettling, think about your daily routine for just a minute.  According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average American woman uses 12 different beauty products in her daily routine, putting an average of 168 chemicals on her body each day.

So, let’s take a second to look at what we know.  We KNOW the UV rays from the sun cause damage.  It is typically manifested as cancer, burns, photoaging, wrinkles or age spots.  We also KNOW that sunscreen significantly reduces risk and exposure to UV rays.  

Continue to have FUN this summer! Be active. Hang out with your friends and family. Go on some outdoor adventures. Go play at the waterpark or pool. Just remember to protect your skin. If you take good care of your skin, your skin will help take good care of you!

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK268889/

https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/22/chemicals-in-cosmetics-us-restricted-eu

https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/resources-industry-cosmetics/small-businesses-homemade-cosmetics-fact-sheet#1

https://www.consumerreports.org/sunscreens/what-you-need-to-know-about-sunscreen-ingredients/

How To Pick The Right Sunscreen

Whether you plan to spend the week on a houseboat at Lake Powell, the day at Bear Lake or an afternoon hiking Mt. Timpanogos, protecting your skin is important. As you look at the plethora of sunscreen formulations available at the store and online, it’s understandable that many of us are confused as to what is the best kind. A basic understanding of sunscreen labeling and how the sun affects our skin will help you choose the right protection for your family and your outdoor adventure.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends selecting a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, with broad-spectrum coverage, that is water-resistant. 

Let’s look at what this really means.

SPF stands for sun protective factor.  It basically means that if your skin would start to burn after being outside for 30 minutes, a sunscreen with SPF of 30 would allow you to stay outside 30 times longer (900 minutes or 15 hours) before burning. SPF indicates how well a sunscreen shields unprotected skin specifically from UVB rays. UVB rays are primarily responsible for burns and promote skin cancer.  

  •       SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
  •       SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays 
  •       SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays 
  •       SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays

(notice that you don’t get twice the protection from SFP 100 versus 50)

Even though an SPF rating above 50 sounds impressive, it isn’t very meaningful. 

The American Cancer Society recommends reapplication of sunscreen every two hours because most people don’t use enough sunscreen to start with, water or sweat makes the sunscreen come off and sunscreen isn’t truly “waterproof”.

As mentioned previously, SPF is a numerical rating of how well a sunscreen protects the skin from burning. So if you used a sunscreen with an SPF of 30, theoretically, you could play outside all day without getting a sunburn. However, most of us know that is not true. If you put sunscreen on your fair-skinned blonde toddler in the morning and never reapplied throughout the day, your child will be burnt to a crisp after spending a day at Seven Peaks! You could even use SPF of 100 and your toddler would still be burned. Sunscreens simply can’t block out all the damaging rays. They are not applied in a thick enough layer and are wiped off, washed off and sweated off.

Broad Spectrum protection means the sunscreen will protect against UVA rays. UVA rays have deeper penetration of the skin which leads to premature aging, including wrinkles and age spots. The SFP label specifically refers to UVB protection, however, according to the FDA, a BROAD SPECTRUM sunscreen will protect against UVA rays at about the same degree. For example, a sunscreen with SPF of 30 will not only block 97% of UVB rays, but it will also prevent 97% of UVA rays from penetrating the skin.

Water-resistant means the sunscreen is formulated to perform well even if you’re swimming or sweating. The FDA requires a specific test for sunscreen to be given this label and will rate the “resistance” level of sunscreen for a specific time frame, either 40 or 80 minutes. There is no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen and labeling laws have now banned the use of this term.

Recognize that when you towel off, you not only wipe off the water, but also the sunscreen that was shielding your skin from ultraviolet rays. So, regardless of the water-resistance rating and time, you think you should have left …after drying off, you need to reapply sunscreen.

A few other important tips to remember:

  • Most people don’t use nearly enough sunscreen. For a person wearing shorts and a t-shirt on a warm summer day, an ounce (the size of a shot glass) should be applied. This amount should be reapplied every two hours. Make sure you pack enough for your hike or outing on the boat. Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before exposure.
  • Most sunscreens have a “use by” date stamped on the container, but a good rule of thumb is to discard any unused sunscreen after three years.  It is best preserved when it is stored in a cool dry place because heat and humidity hasten its demise.
  • Many people with dark skin forget to apply sunscreen or erroneously think they don’t need it. Although darker skin tones prevent a person from burning as easily, the skin can still suffer UV damage. It may also be more difficult to detect abnormal moles or discoloration and cancerous cells.  
  • Many times people think that getting a “base tan” at the beginning of the season or before going on a trip is a good idea. A “tan” occurs when the ultraviolet rays hit the skin, which causes the skin to produce more melanin in an attempt to darken the skin color and maybe shield some of the UV rays. A “base tan” may help minimize burns, but it is still causing skin damage. It is better to protect the skin from UV damage by using sunscreen, sun-protective clothing or shade.
  • Certain medications cause sun sensitivity and will promote sunburn more readily. Classic culprits include treatment for acne, some antihistamines or antibiotics, specific anti-inflammatory medications, and some herbal supplements. Read the cautions on your medication labels to avoid sun damage and burns.
  • MOMS, remember, the sun’s UVA rays penetrate glass, so you still need to apply sunscreen, even if you’re just chauffeuring kids back and forth to activities all day. 
  • If you wear foundation, apply sunscreen first and then put on your foundation. Many foundations do not have the broad-spectrum protection that you need. (Meaning they shield against UVB rays but not UVA rays.)
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun or covered with protective clothing.  (Sunscreen may be used only on small areas, such as the face if protective clothing and shade aren’t available.) Remember, UV rays are reflected from shiny surfaces (like water) so hanging out at the splash pad may expose you or your child to direct rays from the sun AND the rays reflected off the water. 
  • Spray sunscreens should not be used on children because they may accidentally inhale some of the chemicals into their lungs. Because of the smooth application provided by sprays, many people don’t get enough sunscreen on their skin to provide adequate protection. Sprays can be handy for applying sunscreen over thinning hair or where the hair parts, but a hat will provide much better protection.   
  • Remember, children have thinner, more sensitive skin. This may allow them to burn more easily and damage by UV rays at an early age may dramatically increase their risk of serious problems later in life.

So be SUN SMART this summer. Have fun with your family and loved ones while protecting against damaging, discoloring and destructive UV rays.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK268889/

https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/22/chemicals-in-cosmetics-us-restricted-eu

https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/resources-industry-cosmetics/small-businesses-homemade-cosmetics-fact-sheet#1

https://www.consumerreports.org/sunscreens/what-you-need-to-know-about-sunscreen-ingredients/

Summer Sun Safety

Your skin is exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. Sunscreen can protect your skin against burning, skin cancer, and premature aging. Whether you are on the beach, at an amusement park, or walking through the city, always remember to use sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you choose a sunscreen that has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher. It should also provide broad-spectrum protection from both the UVA and UVB rays. If there is any question check the label.

Apply the sunscreen generously before going outdoors. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn. Most adults need at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount you can hold in your palm, to fully cover all exposed areas of your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin. Apply sunscreen to all bare skin. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet (especially if you are wearing sandals) and legs. For hard‐to‐reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you or use a spray sunscreen. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with an SPF of at least 15. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours to remain protected. It is also a good idea to reapply after swimming or sweating. Typically people who get sunburned didn’t use enough sunscreen, didn’t reapply, or used an expired product. Remember water, snow, and sand can reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can also increase your chance of sunburn.

Other precautions you can take to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing like a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, or sunglasses. You can help others stay protected by offering them some of your sunscreens and sharing your shade.

Smart Fun In The Sun

The summer sun is a welcome change to the cold and snow of winter. It warms the air and seems to lift our spirits while at the pool or hitting your favorite hiking trail. Our summer activities often provide a hefty amount of sun exposure, and the tan lines that remain provide evidence of fun had while soaking in a few rays. And when we enjoy too much of a good thing the painful sting of a sunburn reminds us that more care should have been taken to protect ourselves.

Sunburn is the short-term complication that results from excessive exposure to the sun. It can result in pain, redness and even blistering. Fortunately, there are measures to take that can protect from the damaging effects of the sun. The first is to seek shade. Trees, and umbrella, or other shade structures can allow you to participate in outdoor activities while still avoiding some of the sun’s damaging rays. The middle of the day is when the sun’s rays are the strongest, approximately 10 AM to 4 PM in the continental United States.

If you plan to be out in the sun for an extended period, prepare yourself with protection. Sunscreen is available in a wide variety of products. The sun protection factor, or SPF, is an indicator of how much protection is offered by a specific product. It is recommended that a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater be used on exposed skin. It should be applied generously 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. And that you reapply every 2 to 3 hours. Applications may need to be more frequent in activities such as swimming.

In addition to sunscreen, covering exposed skin with clothing provides the needed protection. A wide-brimmed hat can be very helpful in shading the face ears and back of the neck. Also, sunglasses that block UV rays protect the eyes and can reduce the risk of developing cataracts.

Children are at higher risk for sunburn than adults. This is likely due to children being less aware of the risks for sunburn and that they are less likely to use sunscreen and shade it to protect themselves. For children younger than six months of age it is recommended that the parents use hats, clothing, and shade structures to protect from sun exposure in addition to using sensitive skin or baby formula sunscreens.

The cumulative effects of sun exposure go beyond sunburn. Individuals with several sunburns or prolonged exposure do you have increased risk for skin cancer. The most dangerous of these is melanoma.  Many people think that tanning is protective to the skin. This may provide a small amount of protection to sunburn. However, this does not outweigh the risk of skin cancer associated with tanning.

As a physician, I encourage people to enjoy outdoor activities. There are many benefits that come from recreation and physical activity. I personally enjoy cycling, hiking, many other activities possible in the outdoors. Just remember to plan and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and children from the dangerous effects of the sun.

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Matthew Walton, DO
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