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Summer Safety for You and Your Kids

Sunburn continued...

Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, but especially people with light skin color, light hair or eye color, a family history of skin cancer, chronic sun exposure, a history of sunburns early in life, or freckles, according to the American Cancer Society. Ultraviolet rays from tanning booths as well as smoking also increase the risk of skin cancer.

Sunburn prevention and treatment

Limit sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen. Remember that sunscreen is formulated to protect the skin against the sun's ultraviolet light (UV), not to help the skin tan.

Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. If that is not possible, sunscreen may be applied to small areas including their faces and backs of their hands after testing to see if the baby is sensitive. To test, try a small amount on the baby’s wrist.

For older children, apply sunscreen liberally 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply at least every two hours, more often if sweating or getting in and out of the water. Use sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

Some medications can increase sensitivity to the sun. Examples are tetracycline antibiotics like doxycycline or minocycline, sometimes used for acne; sulfonamides such as Bactrim or Septra (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole); non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen; and some fluoroquinolones like ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin. Cosmetics that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) may also increase sun sensitivity and the possibility of sunburn. Examples are glycolic acid and lactic acid. It is important to protect your skin from the sun while using AHA-containing products and for a week after discontinuing their use.

Along with regularly using sunscreen, it's smart to wear wide-brimmed hats and seek shade under a beach umbrella or tree. Sunscreens alone may not always protect you, and it’s possible to get a sunburn even on a cloudy day.

Don't forget sunglasses, which protect the sensitive skin around the eyes and may reduce the long-term risk of developing cataracts. Look for sunglasses that offer at least 99% UV protection for children. People who wear UV-absorbing contact lenses still should wear UV-absorbing sunglasses since contact lenses don't completely cover the eye.

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