Posts for category: Environmental Safety
Ah! Sunshine is here- they very bounty of nature. Without it life as we know it wouldn’t exist on our beloved good green planet. We do need to be careful in how we enjoy this bounty, as lifetime risks for different forms of skin cancer can be influenced by inappropriate exposure to sunshine and repeated sunburn injury. So here comes the age old advice on sunburns and sunscreen.
If you are like many and a walk down the store aisle, leaves you wondering which sunscreen to grab for you or your children? and why is this brand so much more expensive than that brand? what do the SPF numbers really mean? We’ll share a few tips with you in this post that would help you make an informed choice.
Sunlight contains a wide spectrum of different kinds of light. We would limit ourselves to the ultraviolet (UV) light portion which is composed of three kinds described as UVA, UVB and UVC. All UV light forms are capable of different forms of skin injury.
UVA causes tanning like skin changes and little redness and burning. It also produces aging, photosensitivity and toxic skin reactions. UVA rays are present in sunlight throughout the day and the year and can pass through glass. UVB rays are the most harmful and more UVB is radiated during the summer months compared to other times of the year and is primarily responsible for sunburn, suntan, inflammation, redness, and pigmentation changes. It produces tanning more efficiently than does UVA, unlike UVA they are absorbed by glass. UVC, is especially capable of causing changes that could lead to the formation of skin cancers over time. This concern regarding UVC is often muted because it is filtered out by the ozone layer around the earth long before it gets to the earth surface and this why concerns about holes in this layer and ozone depletion are important.
Most chemical sunscreen brands block UVB but are less effective at blocking UVA rays. These products effectively screen changes that lead to sunburn from UVB, but may leave the door open for UVA to act on unhindered on the skin. Sunscreens with a broad spectrum of coverage to both UVA and UVB are preferred since they would prevent excessive exposure of the skin to UVA while protecting against UVB. Scientific data and testing in laboratory animals show that the dreaded form of skin cancer called melanoma is promoted by UVA acting on skin changes triggered by UVB rays. Broad-spectrum sunscreen products are recommended for this reason. Product packaging vary and they may be sold as gels, lotions, creams etc.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend sunscreen with SPF “sunburn protection factor” of at least 15. As explained above products labeled as “broad-spectrum” sunscreen should be preferably used as these protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen use may give people a false sense of security and encourage excessive exposure. Sunlight avoidance between 10.00am and 2.00pm, along with wearing of wide-brimmed hats, use of light protective clothing, and avoiding sunbathing offer more protection than any chemical sunscreen product by itself.
Light-skinned, freckled children, have to use broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF rating as this helps to decrease their risk of developing additional skin injury and skin changes that may lead to skin cancers. Proper sunscreen product selection is important, but proper use and application is even more important. It is recommended that sunscreen be applied at least half-hour before planned exposure to sunlight to allow for adequate skin absorption. The exposed skin should be evenly covered with the sunscreen with repeat applications every 2-4 hours while still in the sun. Our earlier post on sun safety discussed the peculiar situation for infants aged under 6-months and use of sunscreens.
Here in Arizona- the valley of the sun, the summer comes with a good amount of warmth and sunshine as it does elsewhere. The relatively low humidity improves the tolerance of the triple digit temperatures we often get here. Proper hydration orally along with sensitivity for modifications in out door sport training programs are popular recommendations. Young children however need special precautions taken in addition.
Newborns do not move as spontaneously as we would wish when compared to older children and adults in response to a painful sensation as would happen from sustained direct exposure to sunlight. This makes them vulnerable to sunburns within a few minutes of direct sunlight exposure. More than half of a lifetime exposure to the harmful rays of the sun occur in the first 20-years of life and repetitive injuries from harmful sun rays in early life can increase the average lifetime risk and set the stage for skin cancers and related conditions over many years later in adulthood. Lightweight cotton clothing covering the extremities along with wide-brimmed hats are great options for newborns aged less than 6-months and older to prevent harmful sun rays and sunburns. Sunscreens are not routinely used in infants aged 6-months and less and are discouraged without prior review and discussion with your medical provider. Preventive measures as above and avoidance of direct exposure to sun rays with attention to shaded areas help. Sunburns when they occur can be treated with cold compresses to the affected area and Vaseline skin dressings to optimize healing.
Children aged more than 6-months still need similar precautions with weather appropriate clothing when ample direct sunlight exposure is anticipated with wide-brimmed hats, and lightweight cotton apparel. Staying in the shade whenever possible and avoidance of direct exposure to sunlight should be encouraged especially between 10am to 4pm daily when the sunshine intensity is maximal. Parents should apply sunscreen of at least 15 SPF rating or more for protection. Uniform application of adequate portions of sunscreen over exposed skin is recommended with repeat applications at 2-hourly intervals. Sun shades fitted with special lenses that filter out harmful UVA and UVB rays are helpful, however direct glare into sunlight with even these on should be discouraged. Sunburns when they occur can be painful as they often affect the superficial layers of skin where sensitive nerve endings are present. Some of the usual comfort measures include OTC pain medications, cold compresses and skin dressings with Vaseline followed by prompt medical evaluation if additional concerns are present.
This information is for educational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions