Fun in the sun is exactly that – fun. It’s great to be able to enjoy pleasant weather, take part in outdoor activities, and make memories on the sports field, at the beach or even working in your garden.
However, your sun time might be a little less fun if you don’t take appropriate sun safety precautions. In the short term, you could wind up with an itchy sunburn; and prolonged unmitigated sun exposure can lead to more serious health concerns.
We’ve rounded up answers to a few common questions about sun safety, so you can pack your beach tote (or sports bag or gardener’s kit) accordingly.
Which sunscreen should I use?
A sunscreen with a high SPF is designed to protect your skin for a longer period of time. Here’s the caveat, though: it’s only effective when you’re diligent about applying as directed.
It’s more important to read the instructions thoroughly and apply exactly as directed than to worry over which SPF level you’re using. Ideally, choose a sunscreen with a high SPF and broad-spectrum coverage, then supplement its protection by reapplying frequently, wearing protective headgear and clothing, and enjoying time in the shade as well as fun in the sun.
How old should you be to use sunscreen?
Anyone over six months of age can use sunscreen; babies younger than six months should not wear sunscreen and you should seek to limit their sun exposure.
Make sure when you’re applying sunscreen that it’s just one of the many ways you choose to protect yourself. You can also add hats, long sleeves, SPF shirts and rash guards.
How often should I reapply?
Sunscreen isn’t a one-and-done thing. Instead, you should put sunscreen on 15 to 30 minutes before going out, then judiciously reapply it every two hours. You may also need to reapply more frequently if you are spending time in the water or sweating heavily.
Is waterproof sunscreen really waterproof?
Waterproof sunscreen isn’t completely waterproof. A more appropriate term might be water resistant. Its effectiveness drops after time in the water and can be affected based on the type of water you’re exposed to (salt water and chlorinated water may reduce effectiveness more quickly than tap or freshwater.
Rather than relying on a “waterproof” sunscreen to work all day, your best bet is to reapply your sunscreen liberally and regularly, according to the instructions, before and after time spent in the water.
Does spray sunscreen work as well as lotion?
Spray sunscreen is a favorite with many parents because it’s easier to apply for squirmy kids, but once again, its effectiveness comes down to application. When many people apply spray sunscreen, they spray it for only a couple of seconds and expect it to fully coat the skin. In reality, the spray should be applied close to the skin and a generous coating should be visible after spraying. Then, you should rub it in to get the full effect.
If you only have spray sunscreen on hand, it’s best to go ahead and apply it. Any sunscreen is better than going out into the sun’s beaming rays without protection.
What types of issues can overexposure to the sun cause?
Skin cancer is the biggest and scariest side effect of sun exposure. However, in addition to cancer, overexposure to UV rays (including those from tanning beds, can cause sunburn and can age your skin.
Extended time in the sun without proper rehydration can lead to heat rash, sunstroke and heat stroke. And, exposure to UV rays can also cause inflammation of the cornea (part of the eye).
How do I know if I need medical attention for sun exposure?
Most of the time a sunburn is a minor annoyance and a lesson learned. However, if you experience more serious symptoms (such as severe pain or a rash), it’s worth a visit to an urgent care clinic to determine whether treatment can alleviate the issues.
Sun exposure can also lead to heat stroke, typically when you’ve been physically active outside in high temperatures for an extended period of time. Heat stroke is a very serious condition and should not be taken lightly. If you experience symptoms of heat stroke, including a very high temperature, confusion and disorientation, and a rapid heartbeat, visit an urgent care clinic or call 9-1-1 immediately.
Heat rash occurs when blocked pores prevent your skin from releasing sweat properly. Typically this rash goes away within hours or days; however, a visit to urgent care may be in order if you experience unusual symptoms like fever or chills, or if the rash lasts several days without subsiding or improving.
If there’s one rule of thumb when it comes to sun safety, it’s that an overabundance of caution is a good thing. If in doubt, reapply, and if you’re worried about the aftereffects of sun overexposure, visit one of our Integra urgent care locations in Grand Prairie, Weatherford, and Las Colinas so our medical professionals can help to put your mind at ease or provide the treatment you need to get better.