By Dr. John Jones
Simplicity Urgent Care
As the parent of two sets of twins, 4 and 6 years old, I am “dad in charge” when it comes to getting the kids outside on a beautiful day.
Not only is it fun for them to run around in the fresh air and burn off all of that little-kid energy, it’s good for their health.
As a pediatric emergency physician, I know the importance of getting out in the sun for a daily dose of vitamin D. It aids the body in absorbing nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus, which ensure strong bones and a strong immune system, regulate blood pressure, reduce stress and tension, and more.
What you need to know
However, the risks associated with excessive sun exposure can have lasting effects, especially on young, sensitive skin. In fact, dermatologists tell us that it only takes one severe sunburn to potentially double your child’s chances of getting melanoma later in life.
Fortunately, new research shows that regular use of sunscreen during the first 18 years of life can reduce the lifetime incidence of skin cancer by 78 percent. That’s critical because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than two million people are diagnosed annually — more than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.
These findings led the Skin Cancer Foundation to implement new standards for sunscreens in its Seal of Recommendation program. These include rigorous ultraviolet A (UVA) protection requirements, and sunscreens are now divided into two categories based on their intended use: daily use and active use. More than 80 brands and more than 1,000 products have currently earned the Seal of Recommendation. Click here to view them.
Grab that sunscreen and apply it liberally. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. When: The sun is most intense from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out during these hours.
2. Where: Cover all of your skin that will be exposed to the sun. Think “BEENS”: Back of knees, Ears, Eye area, Neck, and Scalp.
3. Which SPF: Opt for a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it blocks both UVA and UVB sunlight. UVA rays cause sunburn. UVB rays are the main cause of wrinkles.
4. How much: While the standard recommendation is to use about 35 ml (or 1 ounce) of sunscreen (the same amount that would fill up a shot glass), we recommend you really lather it on.
Dr. Maguire, who also has four children, says he might go through an entire 8-ounce bottle when he’s applying sunscreen for a day at the beach. “Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen, so use more than you think you should,” he says.
5. Shake it up: Remember to shake the bottle to mix all the particles so they are distributed evenly in the container.
6. Kids: Starting at 6 months of age, begin applying sunscreen. If your kids fuss about it, as mine often do, teach them to spell BEENS with the cream.
7. Note: If you are using insect repellent, it can reduce a sunscreen’s SPF by up to one third. So use a higher SPF, and reapply more often.
Questions? Contact me by email.
By Dr. John Maguire
Simplicity Urgent Care
Sunburn is literally a burn on your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
While sunscreen is effective in blocking the sun’s rays, forgetting to apply or reapply it can result in injury within 30 minutes of exposure.
The result is minor skin redness and irritation, but sufficient exposure can be remarkably painful, with symptoms that include chills, fever, nausea or vomiting or both, flu-like symptoms, and blistering that ranges from very fine blisters to large, water-filled ones with tender, raw skin underneath.
In most severe cases, sunburn can result in shock (poor circulation to vital organs) and even death when complicated by massive fluid loss (dehydration), electrolyte imbalance, and infection.
What to do if you are concerned:
1. If you are concerned that your sunburn is severe, call your doctor immediately and be sure to tell him or her if you have any other significant health problems.
2. Conditions that should motivate you to go to an urgent care center or a hospital’s emergency department include severe pain and blistering, an intense headache, confusion, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. The doctor will make the decision if you need to be treated in the office, or if you should head to a medical facility.
3. Once in the urgent care center, the doctor will obtain a medical history and perform a physical examination to determine the degree of your sunburn (first-degree burns are the mildest — they’re burns of the first layer of skin; second-degree burns injure the first and second layers of skin; and third-degree burns injure all the skin layers and the tissue under the skin).
4. In more severe cases, or for people with preexisting medical problems, the doctor may order certain laboratory tests to aid in determining the severity of your injury.
5. If your case is mild and not life-threatening, the doctor may simply suggest plenty of fluids, aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Additional topical measures such as cool compresses, Burow-solution soaks, or high-quality moisturizing creams and lotions may be prescribed.
6. Stronger pain-relieving medication may be prescribed in certain cases. For example, if you have blistering, steroids may be withheld to avoid an increased risk of infection.
7. If you are dehydrated or suffering from heat stress, IV fluids will be given, and you may be admitted to the hospital. People with very severe cases may be transferred to the hospital’s burn unit.
Questions? Send me an email.