Beat the Heat: Ten Sun Safety Tips
Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group expert offers guidelines to avoid overexposure to the sun
Finally, cool spring days have given way to warmer weather - time for picnics, trips to the beach, walks in the park and many other outdoor activities. While the warmth of the summer sun is meant to be enjoyed, doctors urge outdoor enthusiasts to take certain precautions to prevent overexposure to the harsh rays.
“It’s good to get out and enjoy the summer sun, but like anything else, too much can be harmful. Sun safe habits should begin at childhood and last a lifetime in order to protect your skin from wrinkles and skin cancer,” says Naomi Donnelley, MD, dermatologist with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group.
Donnelley recommends the following tips to enjoy the summer sun safely.
Protect your skin
Only one in five people wear sunscreen on a daily basis, when in fact sunscreen should be used every day, rain or shine. Select a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply the cream 30 minutes before sun exposure. For infants, protective clothing and keeping them out of the sun are best, but it is still safe and necessary to apply sunscreen to exposed skin, even for infants under 6months old.
To get the best UVA protection, you have to be a real label hawk. Keep an eye out for the following ingredients: avobenzone, Mexoryl and/or zinc oxide. Zinc and titanium based sunscreens tend to be better for those with sensitive skin.
Buy new sunscreen each year
Don’t dig to the bottom of your beach bag for last year’s sunscreen. Sun protection expires after 12 months.
Don’t skimp on the sunscreen
The average size-body requires a shot glass worth of sunscreen to achieve maximum coverage. Cover the entire body, including the ears, tops of the feet and along the scalp where the hair is parted.
Don’t fry, re-apply
A suntan is your skin’s way of showing it is damaged. The deeper the tan the more damage has been caused. Be sure to re-apply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors, and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Wear protective clothing
When possible, wear loose fitting clothing that protects the arms and legs. Be sure to cover your face also. A hat with at least a four-inch brim, such as a baseball cap or visor, provides optimal protection.
Staying hydrated is a key component to staying safe in the sun. It cools the body’s temperature and helps avoid heat stroke. Limit your time spent outdoors during peak hours and replenish the body with water to help maintain the body’s cooling system.
Protect your eyes
Finding the right pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes from serious damage. Choose glasses that offer 99 percent UV protection and remember the color of the lens has nothing to do with the strength. Select glasses with a big frame that spans your brows and cheekbones for optimal sun blockage and replace worn out specs.
Use sunless tanning creams, sprays or mousses. The active ingredient in these products is dihydroxyacetone, and it’s safe. Keep in mind a sunless tan does not give you any protection from the sun unless there is SPF included in the product.
Treat a sun burn properly
Cool damp cloths, ibuprofen and a one percent over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can help ease sunburn pain.
“Many patients get confused when it comes to sun safety because they’ve heard that the sun is a good source of vitamin D, which is good for your body. While that’s true, it does not mean that you should go without sun protection. Our bodies get vitamin D in a number of ways, one of which is from the sun. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough vitamin D, consult with your physician to determine if you are vitamin D deficient and should consider taking a supplement.”
For more information about protecting your skin during the summer and throughout the year, call, (312) 926-DOCS (3627).