Little girl with sunscreen on
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

LiveWell Ohio: June 2021

Doctors share advice for protecting your skin from the suns rays and how to safeguard yourself against the itches and ouches waiting for you in the woods. 

Sunny Days
Summer is all about spending time outside, but safeguarding your skin is vital. Here’s how to best protect yourself.

Be diligent and follow the directions. If you can do those two things, you’ll save your skin from the burn of summer and prevent the sun’s harmful rays from creating a more serious health problem. June is National Sun Safety Month, but we should be thinking about smart sun strategies every day of the year. We asked Dr. Llana Pootrakul of the Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology Division at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center to answer a few of our questions. 

What’s the best SPF for protecting your skin? Is a higher number better?
Make sure you at least apply SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunblock with UVA and UVB protection. Some say SPF 50, because people tend to not apply it as thoroughly. So, if you prefer a thin layer, put on SPF 50 or higher. This should start off your daily regimen, and if you are going to be in the sun for several hours, reapply every two hours, or every 1 1/2 hours if you’ll be in the water. 

What ingredients should we look for in sunblock to know it’s effective? 
There are physical blockers like zinc or titanium and chemical blockers like avobenzone and oxybenzone. Physical blockers tend to get washed off more easily, so if you’ll be in the water, it might be better to use sunblock with a chemical blocker. However, overall, more people are moving toward physical blockers because they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.  

Is makeup foundation with SPF enough for everyday wear? 
Many women ask if they can use their makeup, and that’s fine if they are applying it liberally and reapplying it. But if you are someone who has a light makeup routine, you do need to put on sunblock as well. Or consider a brush-on application that takes seconds to reapply every few hours like Brush On Block mineral powder.

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Child putting on insect repellant (photo courtesy of iStock)

Into the Wild
Prepare for summer with smart strategies for preventing some of the ouches and itches waiting for us in nature.

With poison ivy, ticks, mosquitos and more, the great outdoors can feel like Where the Wild Things Are. But if you’re prepared and understand the actual risk of everyday pests and rash-inducing plants, you and your family can enjoy the long summer days. Whether your plans include camping or romping around in the backyard, take some simple precautions to protect against common outdoor-related ailments. Job one is to safeguard yourself against the sun, says Dr. Jennifer Snyder, family medicine physician at University Hospitals Lakewood Primary Care. Then, as you head out into the world, keep in mind these pointers

Ticks: If you find a tick on the body, does this mean Lyme disease is a possibility? More often than not, the answer is no. “To get Lyme disease, for the most part, the tick has to be attached to your body for 72 hours or longer,” Dr. Snyder says. “If you find a tick in your child’s hair the morning after she’s been outside playing, you remove it and you’re done. If they come home from a week of camp, that could be more worrisome because it could have been on the body for several days.” After playing outside at the neighbor’s house or walking through the woods, give the body a once-over, paying special attention to areas like behind the knees, ankles and scalp. You can use a mosquito and tick spray for extra precaution, but Snyder warns, “it’s not 100 percent.” 

Mosquitos: Bug bites are generally more of a pain than a cause for concern. Some people react more severely to mosquito bites. Others barely know a bite was there a few hours after it happened. While the incidences of mosquito-borne illnesses have made the news in the past — mainly the West Nile and Zika viruses — you shouldn’t shutter your family from outdoor play. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of those affected by a bite from a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus experience no symptoms. Those who do cite fever, nausea, body aches and fatigue. How concerned should you be about a mosquito bite turning into a trip to the hospital? “Not that much,” Snyder says. She recommends mosquito-repellant bracelets or burning citronella candles outdoors. “I prefer to ward off mosquitos without putting something on the body,” she says, adding that bug zappers and spraying your yard’s perimeter with an EPA-approved product designed to reduce mosquitos are also solutions. If you want to use bug spray, she suggests going with a DEET-free version. 

Poison Plants: “It’s not just in the woods,” Snyder says of poison ivy, poison oak and sumac. “These plants can be at the edge of your yard.” Most exposures to these plants do not require a doctor’s call, but some people have allergic reactions that require a visit to a healthcare provider. For example, Snyder has seen patients whose eyes swell or who experience extreme histamine responses. Teach your children (and yourself) to identify these plants. Understand their leaf shape and characteristics. Take precautions by covering arms and legs if you are hiking in uncharted territory. In general, Snyder suggests keeping a few things in your medicine cabinet, just in case: diphenhydramine, which lasts about six hours and tends to cause drowsiness; a 24-hour nonsedating antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra and their generic counterparts; and a hydrocortisone cream to apply as needed. 

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