Summer has arrived, and so have picnics, barbecues and other outdoor activities. It's important to remember that our skin is especially vulnerable to sun damage in the early weeks of the season. Sunscreen is the best defense against this damage, but it's important to use the appropriate level of protection and to regularly reapply when out in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
"This time of year, people's skin is not used to the sun," said Dr. Sami Abbasi, a dermatologist with the Downriver Dermatology Center. "When someone is exposed to the sun for as little as one to two hours, the sun can do damage."
Dr. Abbasi recommends the following tips to remember:
- Sunscreens only last for two to three hours before becoming ineffective, so remember to reapply when you're outside for an extended period of time.
- Hats and umbrellas also can provide protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays. But, remember to use sunscreen for the areas that aren't covered by your clothing.
- Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. Lotions with an SPF higher than 30 show little additional benefit. Remember to apply lotion to hard-to-see areas like the tops of your ears.
- Sunscreen is recommended for children ages 6 months and older. Children younger than 6 months should be protected from any prolonged sun exposure.
- When swimming, use waterproof sunscreen. Regular sunscreen is quickly washed away, so once you get out of the water, remember to reapply. Even waterproof sunscreen should be reapplied every two to three hours.
Even in the Michigan sun, severe burns and skin cancer can occur without adequate protection. Check your skin for any new or existing moles that bleed, are black in color or change shape. To make an appointment with a Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital dermatologist for a skin screening, call (800) WYAN-DOC.
Sun Safety Applies to Eyes, Too
While you're soaking up that long-awaited sun, don't forget that your eyes are just as vulnerable to damage as your skin. Without adequate eye protection, the sun can cause serious eye injuries that may require surgery.
"Over time, exposure to the sun can cause changes to the mucous layer of the eye," explains Dr. Donna Qahwash from the Wyandotte Eye Clinic. "The sun can cause the growth of certain layers of the eye. In severe cases, this can make it feel like there are foreign bodies on the eye itself."
To stay safe, Dr. Qahwash recommends wearing polarized glasses when exposed to direct sunlight. If you don't have sunglasses handy, wear a hat for sun protection. While many serious eye conditions are more common in areas closer to the equator, even the Michigan sun can be strong enough to cause eye damage when proper eye protection isn't worn.
Keeping your eyes safe in the sun is important for people of all ages, including:
- Older adults: Long-term sun exposure can worsen conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration.
- Children: Kids need sun protection for their eyes, as well. If a child is unable or unwilling to wear sunglasses, insist on a hat or visor.
Eye damage caused by the sun usually can be treated nonsurgically by a trained ophthalmologist. To make an appointment with an ophthalmologist near you, call (800) WYAN-DOC.
Stay Cool to Beat Heat Illness
As the temperatures rise, so does the risk for heat illness. Here's how to avoid an emergency.
If the temperature is higher than 70 degrees and the humidity is more than 70 percent, your body's cooling system doesn't work as well. This increases the dangers of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Stomach, arm and leg cramps are often the first signs of heat illness, followed by thirst, fatigue and weakness. If you experience these symptoms, stop your activity, drink water and move to the shade. If you don't feel better within 30 minutes, call your doctor.
Seek immediate help if you or a family member has the following symptoms:
- Skin that's hot and dry but not sweating
- Trouble breathing