Up to Date
6:00 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Avoiding A Summer Of Sizzling Sunburns

If you just grab the highest SPF sunscreen when you head out to the lake, you might not be making the best choice. 

On Wednesday's Up to Date, we’ll talk with local dermatologists Dr. Amy Jo Nopper and Dr. Molly Menser about why there’s more to sunscreen that the big number on the front of the bottle and get some of their tips for a safe summer for your skin.

Summer Skin Care FAQ

Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. What is the difference between the two rays?
Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth – ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer. In addition to causing skin cancer, here’s what each of these rays do:

  • UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.
  • UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.

Are spray sunscreens safe?
The FDA is currently investigating the risks of accidental inhalation of spray sunscreens. The challenge in using spray sunscreens is that it is difficult  to know if you have used enough sunscreen to cover all sun-exposed areas of the body, which may result in inadequate coverage.
Never spray sunscreen around or near the face or mouth. Spraying adequate amounts of the sunscreen into your hands and then applying the sunscreen can help avoid the fumes while also ensuring adequate coverage. When applying spray sunscreens on children, be aware of the direction of the wind to avoid inhalation.

How do I treat a sunburn?
It’s important to begin treating a sunburn as soon as possible. In addition to stopping further UV exposure, dermatologists recommend treating a sunburn with:

  • Cool baths to reduce the heat.
  • Moisturizer to help ease the discomfort caused by dryness. As soon as you get out of the bathtub, gently pat yourself dry, but leave a little water on your skin. Then apply a moisturizer to trap the water in your skin.
  • Hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription to help ease discomfort.
  • Aspirin or ibuprofen. This can help reduce the swelling, redness, and discomfort.
  • Drinking extra water. A sunburn draws fluid to the skin surface and away from the rest of the body. Drinking extra water prevents dehydration.
  • Do not treat with “-caine” products (such as benzocaine).

If your skin blisters, you have a second-degree sunburn. Dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Allow the blisters to heal untouched. Blisters form to help your skin heal and protect you from infection.
  •  If the blisters cover a large area, such as the entire back, or you have chills, a headache, or a fever, seek immediate medical care.

With any sunburn, you should avoid the sun while your skin heals. Be sure to cover the sunburn every time before you head outdoors.

Information obtained from American Academy of Dermatology

Dr. Amy Jo Nopper is the Division Director of Dermatology at Children's Mercy Hospital and the Professor  of Pediatrics and Dermatology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Medical School. Her specialties include vascular birthmarks, laser therapy, adverse drug reactions, genetic skin disorders, infantile hemangiomas and neurocutaneous disorders. Find her full biography here.

Dr. Molly Menser is a board certified dermatologist and Diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology. She is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and American Osteopathic Association. Find her full biography here.

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