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Summer Safety for You and Your Kids

Sunburn continued...

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.

If you or your child does get a sunburn, don't put ice or butter on it. Use a cold compress or a pack of frozen vegetables. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen may also be helpful. Mild and moderate cases of sunburn may be helped by topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone. Severe cases may require oral steroids, such as prednisone, and should be evaluated by a doctor.

Applying 80% to 90% aloe vera gels, now readily available where sunscreens are sold, can also lessen the pain of a sunburn and prevent burns from deepening if applied early. The actual juice squeezed from an aloe vera plant works the same way. This natural remedy is widely used in tropical countries around the world.

Damage from sun exposure and sunburn builds up over the years. Be on the lookout for moles that change color or size, bleed, or have an irregular, spreading edge -- all potential signs of skin cancer.

Mosquito and Tick Bites

Rob Baxley of Savage, Md., never saw the tick, but thinks he came into contact with one when he helped his brother build a deck in June 2003. "Soon after that, I noticed a little red spot on my thigh," Baxley says. "But then it grew." He estimates the rash was about the diameter of a grapefruit when he went to the emergency room in mid-July.

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