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Summer Sun Safety Q&A

June 07, 2016

Posted in Safety

Summer Sun Safety Q&A

By Megan Evans, MD, Dermotologist, Arkansas Children's Hospital

Warmer weather and longer days mean more time for kids to be playing outside! But if you and your family are going to be out in the sun, especially on a hot day, you need to stay safe. We asked our new ACH Dermatologist Dr. Megan Evans common summer safety questions.

  • When do I need to use sunscreen?

You should apply sunscreen every day that you will be going outside, even in the winter and on cloudy days, as up to 80 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays can penetrate the clouds and reach your skin. You should apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside.

  • How often should I reapply sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, or sooner if you've been swimming or sweating a lot.

  • How much sunscreen should I use?

Most people only use 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen with each application. For the average person, it is recommended to use 1 ounce of sunscreen, the equivalent of a shot glass, with each application. This amount may need to be increased or decreased based on body size.

  • What are the best sunscreens?

I recommend using broad spectrum sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB rays. SPF 30 or higher is recommended. Also, look for a sunscreen that is water resistant, especially if you'll be swimming or sweating a lot. Don't forget to look for a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher, as skin cancer can develop on the lips from chronic sun exposure.

  • Are spray-on sunscreens safe to use?

In general, I recommend avoiding sunscreen sprays as it can be difficult to apply an adequate layer of sunscreen with these products. In addition, FDA regulations on sunscreen testing and standardization do not pertain to spray-on sunscreens, and the FDA is currently investigating the risks of accidental inhalation of these products. If you choose to use a spray-on sunscreen, avoid spraying near the face and never spray near an open flame or while smoking.

  • Won't using sunscreen keep me from getting enough vitamin D?

While using sunscreen may decrease your skin's production of vitamin D, most people can get enough vitamin D from their diet and/or vitamin supplements.

  • Besides sunscreen, what else can I do to protect myself from the sun?

Try to avoid sun exposure during the hours when the sun's rays are the strongest, especially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even when wearing sunscreen, it is important to seek shade when possible and to wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves and pants.

  • At what age can I start putting sunscreen on my child?

You can start using sunscreen on your child beginning at the age of 6 months. Infants younger than 6 months of age should avoid the sun as much as possible, as sunscreens are not recommended for this age group.

  • Why is too much sun exposure harmful?

While a sunburn may be short-lived, there are many long-term consequences of getting too much sun, including aging of the skin and an increased risk of skin cancer. It is estimated that 20 percent of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

  • What should I do if I get a sunburn?

The first step when you notice sunburn developing is to get out of the sun. To help soothe the skin, you can take cool baths and apply a thick moisturizer. Drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration. If you have swelling and discomfort, ibuprofen or aspirin may help. If you get a blistering sunburn, you should allow the blisters to heal on their own instead of popping them. If you have blisters covering a large area such as the entire back or if you're having fever, chills or headache, you should seek immediate medical attention.

*All of the above information was obtained from the American Academy of Dermatology. Further information as well as a guide for selecting the right sunscreen can be found at https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs.

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