by Michelle Kooiman, PharmD
What sunscreen is recommended to prevent sunburns?
Along with sun protective clothing, choose a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, has broad spectrum coverage against UVA and UVB and is water resistant.
How do I apply sunscreen appropriately?
One ounce of sunscreen should be enough to cover the body. Wait 15 minutes after application before entering a sunny area or water. This allows the skin to fully absorb the sunscreen. Reapplication is recommended after two hours or after swimming or sweating.
What is the best formulation of sunscreen?
Sunscreens come in many forms like aerosol sprays, creams and sticks. Although convenient, sunscreen sprays must still be rubbed into the skin to be effective. Some of the active ingredients may also be lost in the air when used, leading to less coverage. Creams are most effective since they are easier to control the amount and technique when applying.
What do I do if I get a sunburn?
Use topical aloe vera, ice packs or cool water to ease the burn. If blisters occur, do not break them open due to risk of infection. Keep the skin moisturized with a cream or ointment (ie Aquaphor or Eucerin). Take NSAIDs to reduce swelling or pain.
What is West Nile?
West Nile is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes after they feed on infected birds. The virus can present in humans as asymptomatic to severe illness requiring hospitalization.
How do I prevent mosquito bites and West Nile?
Use mosquito repellent that contains one or more of the following active ingredients:
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (if over 3 years old)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD) (if over 3 years old)
- 5% permethrin can be used to treat clothing to repel mosquitoes
What do I do after I am bit by a mosquito?
Wash the area with soap and water and apply an ice pack for 10 minutes. Apply a paste of baking soda and water over the bite for 10 minutes then wash off. Over the counter anti-itch topicals can help soothe the itch until the bite heals. Try not to scratch the affected site as it may cause infection.
How do I treat a poison ivy/oak exposure?
- Rinse skin with rubbing alcohol, poison plant washes or dish soap and lots of water. Repeat this step multiple times to ensure the urushiol from the plant is completely off the skin.
- Apply wet compresses, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blisters.
- Take oral antihistamines if the itchiness is over a large area of the body.
What are some good practices to keep my skin healthy this summer?
- Wear sunscreen everyday.
- Put on insect repellant if traveling to an area where there is standing water or where West Nile transmissions are reported.
- Know what plants are poisonous so they can be easily identified and avoided on hikes.
- Inspect the skin everyday for redness, itchiness, or swelling.
- Keep hydrated.
When should I see my doctor after a sunburn, mosquito bite or poison ivy/oak exposure?
- If you develop a fever.
- If you develop an allergic reaction such as swelling or difficulty breathing.
- If your skin ailment is drastically limiting your daily living.