School is out, the sun is out, and your family is looking to get out and enjoy the summer! But before you hit the beach or the park, or even head out for a quick bike ride, Dr. Takashi Hirata of Novant Health Hillsdale Medical Associates reminds you to consider sun protection for your whole family.
"There are a number of ways to prevent sunburn, including avoiding sun during mid-day hours, and using effective sunscreen and protective clothing," Dr. Hirata said. "It's also important to remember UV rays can penetrate the clouds even on cloudy days and a burn can happen in as little as 15 minutes, so it's important to protect your skin all the time."
Dr. Hirata says using sunscreen daily is one of the best ways to protect your skin from sunburns and sun damage. "Most healthcare providers, including myself and the American Academy of Dermatology, recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or above on exposed skin," Dr. Hirata explained. "It is important to make sure the sunscreen is rated to be effective against both UVA and UVB radiation.
"It seems like a lot, but you need to apply one ounce of sunscreen to each exposed area of skin," Dr. Hirata said. "That's one ounce for your arm, one for your neck, one for your back and so on."
Once you have applied sunscreen, Dr. Hirata says, your job is not done. "You need to reapply sunscreen every two to three hours, or after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel," he said.
Babies and children generally have fairer skin, and are more susceptible to burns. "Sunscreen is especially important for toddlers and children," Dr. Hirata noted, "but the safety of sunscreen has not been tested for infants under six months of age. Instead, use hats, sunglasse and shade to protect them from the sun. But when these measures are not available or adequate, I do recommend using very small amounts of sensitive skin or baby formula sunscreens with SPF of at least 15 to high-risk areas like the face or neck."
Dr. Hirata also points out that the signs of sunburn or overexposure can take a few hours to appear, so it is important to get out of the sun long before a burn happens. "If you do get a burn, stay out of the sun until skin redness and pain resolve," Dr. Hirata said. "You should take ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain as soon as you notice the signs of sunburn, because the benefit of these medications decreases after 24 hours. Aloe-based lotion with local anesthetic can also help with the pain."
For more severe burns, however, you should seek medical attention. "Any time you have severe pain, redness or skin blistering, or heat stroke symptoms including fever, headache, confusion, blurry vision nausea or vomiting, go to your doctor's office or an emergency department immediately," Dr. Hirata warned.
If you have any questions about sun exposure or if you are concerned about a burn, heat stroke or heat exhaustion, call Novant Health Hillsdale Medical Associates at 336-998-9060.