N. Leigh Dunlap

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Sunburns and ‘Skeeters and Ticks…Oh My!

Information is power, so battle bugs and burns this year properly armed. First, something to keep in mind about sun exposure: Any tanning or “pinking” or the skin indicates a response by skin to damage that has already occurred. Take precautions to prevent damage from sun exposure before it happens.

The most reliable prevention is, of course, to stay out of the sun entirely. The next best course is to seriously limit exposure. Australia has seen a tremendous decrease in melanoma rates since launching its public awareness campaign “Slip, Slap, Slop” – that is, Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat, Slop on the sunscreen. These measures really work so…

Cover up. Wear a hat with a brim to shade your face and neck. Wear a long-sleeved, darker colored shirt (dark colors block more of the cancer-causing UVA). Babies should be completely shielded from the sun and kids should wear sun blocking swim shirts in addition to swimsuits. Sun protective clothing is available from several companies --Coolibar, Sun Precautions and Solumra are a few – and it’s a good investment.

Use sunscreen, at least SPF 15 and preferably SPF 30, even under clothing. Apply it heavily and reapply every two hours – more often if you’re swimming or working up a sweat. When used correctly, sunscreens block most harmful UVB; for protection from UVA, check ingredients and look for zinc, titanium or stabilized avobenzone. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for full protection to kick in so don’t wait until you’re on the way out the door to slather up.

Protect yourself and your kids against insect-borne illnesses, carried mostly by ticks and mosquitoes. DEET is still the most effective protection. “All natural” repellants are appealing but not one has been shown to be as effective – and one bite is all it takes. DEET in a concentration of 30% is safe even for infants but not for those under 2 months of age (it’s benefits peak at 30%, so more isn’t better).

Do not use products that combine bug repellant and sunscreen for the simple reason that sunscreen has to be reapplied frequently – enough to overdose on the bug repellant.

Did You Know:

Many of the most annoying Insects are attracted to bright, pretty smelling things. To make yourself less attractive to them, avoid wearing brightly colored or patterned clothes and don’t use scented shampoo, soap or lotion.