Summer’s here and the time is right for wearing sunscreen and protecting skin from the harmful rays of the sun.
Washington County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski said there is no specific temperature or time of year that is the right time for wearing sunscreen.
“I have worn sunscreen 365 days a year for probably 10 years,” she said.
Pettit-Majewski said burns can happen on cloudy days and even in winter. The sun is always present but hotter on some days than others, making sunscreen essential.
“I think that’s what people need to think about. Your skin can be damaged by the sun’s rays even if you aren’t out in it for a long time. We just notice it more in summer because we are out for a longer time,” she said.
In summer, people wear tend to wear short sleeve shirts and shorts, leaving more skin exposed to the sun. Because less skin is exposed in winter and people are typically outside for shorter periods of time due to temperature, the risk decreases she said.
“You can still damage your skin but the risk increases in summer because the sun is stronger and we have more exposure,” she said.
Sunscreen should be put on at least 15 minutes before a person goes outside, she said. Especially between the sun’s peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the skin is at a higher risk because the sun is at its strongest. For those who do not like sunscreen, there are other options, she said.
“If you don’t like sunscreen, you can look at different kinds of clothing,” she said, adding there are light weight shirts, hats, shorts and pants that will still protect the skin while keeping the person cool. A wide brimmed hat will protect the face, ears, back of neck and protect the upper part of the chest as well, she said.
When choosing sunscreen, the higher the SPF, the higher the percentage of protection from radiation, she said. Sunscreen protects the skin by absorbing UVA and UVB rays from the sun.
Pettit-Majewski said a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF is recommended. However, the mot important step is remembering to reapply she said.
When swimming or sweating, the sunscreen can lose its effectiveness and needs to be reapplied often. A higher level SPF does not give longer protection, it simply gives more protection, she said.
“When properly used, an SPF of 15 protects from 93 percent of radiation,” she said, adding an SPF of 30 will protect from 97 percent. “You want to make sure regardless of what sunscreen SPF you are using, you reapply every couple of hours.”
A lotion is recommended for kids because spray sunscreen can be harmful if inhaled, she said. However, the most important part is that people remember to not only wear, but reapply sunscreen often.
The general rule of thumb, she said, is to use about a shot glass full on every application. If not consumed by the end of summer, sunscreen should be thrown away and replaced yearly as it can lose its effectiveness.
An important factor people forget about, she said, is covering the hard to reach spots. Lips, ears, feet, bald spots, the back of the neck and even the small of the back can be tricky places that will burn easily if proper care is not taken.
“Think about how you move in your clothes before you go out in the sun,” she said.
Pettit-Majewski recommends people crouch and move around in their clothes before going outside to see what spots might be vulnerable to the sun. Especially when cycling or digging in the garden, different parts of the body are exposed and may need additional protection.
The main focus with skin care in regard to the sun is protecting the skin, she said, however burns can happen. The proper care regime is applying a cold cloth, taking a cool bath and not exposing the skin to the sun again until the burn has healed.
This can be common especially in those looking to tan. Pettit-Majewski said a phrase she hears often is “base tan,” where people try to tan their skin early in order for it to darken easier throughout the summer. However, this is a myth, she said. Tanning the skin is damaging the skin and tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancer by 400 percent. For those looking for a sun-kissed glow, there are other options, she said.
“There’s a lot of alternatives if you’re looking for darker skin whether it’s bronzer, a spray tan or things you can get in a bottle,” she said.
For those planning to spend a lot of time in the sun, heat stroke could be a risk factor. Common symptoms include exhaustion, cramps, headaches, nausea and high body temperature.
“We want to make sure that you seek care especially if your fever has gone up,” she said.
A cool place is the best recovery location, she said, and water to hydrate the body is needed. Even if a person has no signs of heat stroke, drinking water is essential to keep the body hydrated throughout the day.