Wednesday, June 29, 2016

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Summertime and the living is … hot. Sunburned. Itchy.

Without taking certain precautions while outdoors, summer can end up being a real pain.

With a few tips, though, you can protect yourself and loved ones and ensure this summer season is your safest one yet.

Sun safety

The sun produces skin-damaging invisible rays, ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB), which can increase risk for the development of skin cancer.

“People often understand that getting a sunburn is not good for them, but don’t always think about how today’s sun damage or ‘glow’ could have repercussions several years from now,” said Dr. Wayne Ledinh of Summit Plastic Surgery and Skin Care Center. “With each suntan and sunburn you get, you are increasing your risk for skin cancer.”

Dr. Ledinh recommends people of all ages take precautions by slathering on a thick coating of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF, or sun protection factor, of at least 30.

He added that people should be vigilant with reapplying sunscreen and also seek other ways to protect themselves from the sun’s rays.

“Never assume that an SPF 30, or even a sunscreen with a higher SPF, will provide adequate protection for a day at the pool or afternoon outside,” said Dr. Ledinh. “You should reapply at least every two hours and after being in water, sweating or toweling off.”

Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include:

  • Seeking shade, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Covering up with clothing to protect exposed skin
  • Wearing a wide-brim hat that offers protection to the face, head, ears and neck
  • Wearing sunglasses that block as close to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays as possible
  • Wearing protective lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher

Bug safety

During the summer, it is even easier to become the object of an insect’s evening snack.

Insect bites often only leave behind an itchy bump or two that can be bothersome for a few days before disappearing, but it is important to proactively seek ways to limit bites since insects can carry vector-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Zika virus, West Nile virus and others.

“Using an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET is one way you can protect yourself from insect bites if you are going to be outside,” said Summit Health Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention Ericka Kalp, PhD, MPH, CIC, FAPIC.

Avoiding the outdoors during peak biting times such as dusk and dawn may also help reduce risk for mosquito bites.

“You should also exercise caution after being in the woods or grassy areas and thoroughly inspect yourself for ticks afterward,” Dr. Kalp said.

She encourages people who spend time outdoors in wooded or grassy areas to wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, hats and boots or closed-toe shoes when possible.

Additional protection can be provided by tucking shirts into pants and pants into socks. The insecticide permethrin also can be applied to clothing for added protection.

Heat safety

While temperatures have yet to sizzle, there’s still plenty of time for heat to set in this summer.

“The heat of summer can affect anyone of any age, but certain segments of the population are at a higher risk for developing serious complications, like heat stroke, more quickly,” said Dr. Frank Mozdy, Summit Health vice president and chief medical officer.

These population groups include the very young, people who are 65 or older, people who are physically ill, those with heart disease or high blood pressure and people with a mental illness.

Dr. Mozdy said that when heat indices are extreme or when heat waves set in, all people should stay indoors in air conditioning when possible.

“If you do go outside, avoid strenuous work or exercise, rest often and be mindful of replenishing lost fluids,” he said.

The amount of additional water you should drink depends on the amount of fluids lost while active. If you are engaging in vigorous activity in the heat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an adult drink two to four eight-ounce glasses of cool water each hour.

“You should not wait to drink until you feel thirsty,” added Dr. Mozdy.

Individuals who take water pills or whose physicians limit their fluid intake should consult with their doctor about the appropriate intake of water. Those living in homes without air conditioning should try to seek relief in a public place like a library or mall.

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