Healthy Headlines - July 2012


/news.aspxThis month I, along with all my fellow Kansans, will be enjoying the summer month of July.  The month of July brings all kinds of fantastic activities including firing up the grill, enjoying some baseball, and celebrating America’s Independence Day. 

Along with all of these outdoor activities comes all that sun exposure.  Don’t get me wrong being outside the summer months in Kansas can be a very rewarding experience.  But, there are a few precautions we all should take.  One of the big concerns is sun-overexposure or sunburns.  More than likely most of us have experienced sunburn.  Unfortunately, for many of us this has occurred many more times than just once.  Time with our friends and family make the hours go by quickly and next thing you know your skin gets that pinkish hue and the discomfort begins.  There are several quick points that I’ll mention to help keep those sunny days pain free.

Essentially, sunburn occurs after excessive sun exposure.  For each individual the word, “excessive” means something different.  While some people can be in the sun for hours others will notice skin irritation and discomfort in a matter of minutes.  The individual response to sunlight is quite variable depending on the number of times of severe exposure, skin type, and genetic determinants.  There are several variables that can be considered:

  • A history of sunburn with minimal exposure to sunlight
  • Fair skin
  • Light-colored hair
  • Current use of photosensitizing medications with sun exposure (some common medications include Ibuprofen, Aleve, Naproxen and other NSAIDs {Non Steroid Anti Inflammatory Drugs}, and certain antibiotics.
The above medication list is certainly not all inclusive so if you have questions always feel free to contact your physician, health care provider, or pharmacist.  They can help you with any questions or concerns about your current medications and the possibility of photosensitizing medication.

As with many health concerns prevention is the key to success in dealing with sunburns:

Sun Screen- (The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a sunscreen of SPF {Sun Protective Factor} 30 or higher) Use only sunscreen that offers:
  • Broad-spectrum coverage (label may say “broad spectrum,” “protects against UVA/UVB,” or “UVA/UVB protection”)
  • Water resistance
  • Check the expiration date:  as with most products the potency and effectiveness can wane with time.  Make sure the date of your sunscreen hasn’t expired.
Avoid UV Exposure- The typical hours of excessive sun exposure can occur between 10 am and         4 pm.  A person can still be exposed to excessive UV light during cloudy days.  Consider seeking         shade during these time periods.

Clothing- If you know your outing will entail long periods of sun exposure consider loose-fitting clothes with long sleeves.  Some manufacturers have come out with SPF ratings.  Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses are excellent considerations as well.  Some sunglass manufacturers have also come out with UVA/UVB information about their products.  Look for those with your next sunglass purchase. 

The above interventions can be considered for children as well.  We have to remember with kids as well as some adults they very well may have sensitive skin.  Considering this, if you notice skin irritation with any product including sunscreen contact your physician or healthcare provider immediately.  For children under the age of six months the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoidance of excessive sun exposure.  The use of protective clothing is highly recommended (as stated in number three above).  Also, a small amount of sunscreen (SPF of greater than or equal to 15) may be applied to small areas (face, back of hands, neck) when shade and additional protective clothing are not readily available.

July is a wonderful month for the good folks of Kansas!  I strongly recommend enjoying the time with friends and family.  But, enjoy it safely and protect yourself and your family from a potentially painful experience from the Kansas sun.  Unfortunately, with repeated sunburn come the possibility of sun damaged skin and the possibility of skin cancer.  Using the tips above may help you and your loved ones minimize these potential risks. 

If you have any further questions or concerns never hesitate to contact your physician or healthcare provider.

Dr. Weintz is the author of, “Healthy Headlines.”  He is a family physician at Stanton County Family Practice.

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