Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Sun safety

Now that it is finally summer, most people are excited to spend time outdoors. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us Monday morning to talk about some safety tips for being out in the sun.

Meghan Kulig: First, let's talk about some ways to prevent getting a sunburn.

Dr. Arnold: You can think about "ABC". A is for AVOID, so try to avoid those peak sun hours of 10 am to 4 pm and seek shade whenever possible. B is for BLOCK. Always use sunscreen if you're going to be outside to block the sun's rays. C is for COVER. The more skin you can cover with clothes the better. Hats with wide brims are helpful, and sunglasses with UV protection are recommended.

Meghan Kulig: Any tips on choosing a sunscreen?

Dr. Arnold: Sunscreens come in many forms including lotions, gels, and sprays. Use sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and broad spectrum, meaning that it covers UVA and UVB rays. It is also helpful if it is water resistant. Apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapply every two hours. If you're swimming or sweating a lot, reapply the sunscreen more often.

Meghan Kulig: How much sunscreen should you use?

Dr. Arnold: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using about the amount that would fit in a shot glass, which is more than most people often use. Make sure you apply the sunscreen to all exposed of your body. People tend to forget about the earlobes and scalp. Your lips can also get burned, so it's helpful to use an SPF 15 lip balm. Sometimes when your lips get sunburned, it may trigger a cold sore to develop.

Meghan Kulig: What if you do get a sunburn?

Dr. Arnold: For the sunburned area, you can use cool baths and apply soothing lotions containing aloe or vitamin E. Calamine lotion can help if the area gets itchy. Sometimes sunburns can cause headache. The headache is often caused by dehydration, so make sure to stay well hydrated. Over the counter medicines like Tylenol can also be helpful.

Meghan Kulig: What about blistering?

Dr. Arnold: Try not to pick at them since they can get infected. If the blisters do break, you can use an over the counter antibiotic ointment, if you're not allergic to it. Wear loose fitting clothing so your clothes don't rub the blisters.

Meghan Kulig: When should someone seek medical attention for a sunburn?

Dr. Arnold: Seek help if you have extensive burns or severe blistering or if the blisters are infected. You'll also want to get help if you are feeling systemically ill with nausea, vomiting, fever/chills, or weakness or changes in vision. If you are so dehydrated that you can't keep up with fluids, that would be another reason to seek care.


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