Summer Safety for You and Your Kids
The FDA regulates sunscreen as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug and is working on a proposed rule that will specify testing procedures for determining levels of UVA protection in sunscreen products. It will also include labeling for UVA protection similar to existing SPF labeling for UVB. So in the future, consumers will be able to choose a sunscreen based on both UVB and UVA protection levels.
Some medications can increase sensitivity to the sun. Examples are tetracycline antibiotics like doxycycline or minocycline, sometimes used for acne; sulfonamides such as Bactrim or Septra (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole); non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen; and some fluoroquinolones like ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin. Cosmetics that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) may also increase sun sensitivity and the possibility of sunburn. Examples are glycolic acid and lactic acid. It is important to protect your skin from the sun while using AHA-containing products and for a week after discontinuing their use.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), along with regularly using sunscreen, it's smart to wear wide-brimmed hats and seek shade under a beach umbrella or tree. Sunscreens alone may not always protect you, and it’s possible to get a sunburn even on a cloudy day.
Don't forget sunglasses also, which protect the sensitive skin around the eyes and may reduce the long-term risk of developing cataracts. Look for sunglasses that offer at least 99% UV protection for children. People who wear UV-absorbing contact lenses still should wear UV-absorbing sunglasses since contact lenses don't completely cover the eye.
If you or your child do get a sunburn, don't put ice or butter on it, says Bruce Bonanno, M.D., an emergency physician at Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, N.J. "Use a cold compress, and if you don't have that, a pack of frozen vegetables will work." Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen may also be helpful. Mild and moderate cases of sunburn may be helped by topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone. Severe cases may require oral steroids such as prednisone and should be evaluated by a doctor.
Applying 80% to 90% aloe vera gels, now readily available where sunscreens are sold, can also lessen the pain of a sunburn and prevent burns from deepening if applied early. The actual juice squeezed from an aloe vera plant works the same way. This natural remedy is widely used in tropical countries around the world.
Damage from sun exposure and sunburn builds up over the years. Be on the lookout for moles that change color or size, bleed, or have an irregular, spreading edge -- all potential signs of skin cancer.
Mosquito and Tick Bites
Rob Baxley, 32, of Savage, Md., never saw the tick, but thinks he came into contact with one when he helped his brother build a deck in June 2003. "Soon after that, I noticed a little red spot on my thigh," Baxley says. "But then it grew." He estimates the rash was about the diameter of a grapefruit when he went to the emergency room in mid-July.