August 2003

MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Fox
PHONE: 410-955-4288

Summer Medical News Tips

Listed below are story ideas from The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. To pursue any of these stories, call Meghan Fox at 410-955-4288.

HOW TO ACHIEVE THAT HEALTHY TAN WITHOUT THE HARM
It's summertime, and once again a priority of many is to achieve that "healthy glow" by basking in the sun. But according to Daniel Sauder, M.D., the concept of a healthy tan is a contradiction in terms. "There is no such thing as safe tanning," he says. A burn, he explained, obviously indicates injury to the skin, and so does the resulting tan. The body acts to stimulate the pigment that gives you your tan in a fruitless effort to prevent further damage from UV rays. Unfortunately, the damage is irreversible.

Some people presume that tanning in a tanning bed with special lights is safer than baking outside in the hot sun. If anything, the opposite is the case. Although salon tanning may be quick and convenient, it's also more harmful to the body.

Tanning beds emit primarily UVA rays, says Sauder, which penetrate deeper into the skin, causing harm to the immune system after just one exposure. Additionally, the symptoms of severe skin damage resulting from a tanning bed are not visible until serious damage has already occurred.

"Sunlight and tanning beds are direct carcinogens. If you get enough exposure, you will get skin cancer," Sauder explains. In fact, skin cancer will affect one million people this year in the United States alone, he notes.

So how do you get the sun-kissed look without the harm? The doctor prescribes self-tanner. The chemicals are safe, the golden color is quickly achieved, and it doesn't cause cancer.

BEING SUN SAFE
Even dermatologist Daniel Sauder admits he won't completely ignore the sun this summer, but he will be mindful of appropriate sun protection.

Sunscreen is a must, Sauder says, and when it comes to SPF, "the higher the better!" Equally important is that the sunscreen is used correctly, in conjunction with wearing protective clothing and avoiding the sun's peak hours.

SPF stands for sun protective factor – the level of protection given by the sunscreen before burning will occur. An SPF of 15 allows wearers to tolerate 15 times more sun without burning, which should provide sufficient protection. However, the amount of sunscreen used in testing is far greater than the amount used by the general public.

"No one puts sunscreen on the way they are supposed to, the way it is tested," Sauder says. People do not apply sunscreen nearly as liberally or as often as they should. For this reason, Sauder recommends an SPF of 30 or greater and a new application at least every two hours, depending on the level of physical activity and the heat and humidity of the day.

When possible, protective clothing and sunglasses should be worn outdoors. Sunscreen is safe for babies, but hats, umbrellas and long-sleeve clothing provide the best protection to infants, who might ingest the sunscreen.

Another prime part of protection includes avoiding lengthy outdoor activities when ultraviolet rays are the strongest and the most dangerous to the skin – from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

PREVENT DEHYDRATION

According to Arjun Chanmugam, M.D., dehydration is a leading cause of death throughout the world. Staying hydrated during the summer months is especially important.

"The problem," says Chanmugam, "is that sometimes in the heat, you don't recognize that you are losing that much water." The days are hot and humid, and perspiration rids the body of water far more quickly than people often realize.

Dehydration can cause a person to feel weak, lightheaded, rundown and fatigued. While mild dehydration is easily reversible, a severe case can cause injury to the brain, heart and kidneys.

For many, the recommended eight glasses of water a day may not be appropriate. A recent study questions the origin of the claim and indicates that appropriate water intake varies from person to person. An individual's own needs, in addition to the temperature, environment and level of activity, must be taken into consideration.

"One thing is for certain, if you think you're not drinking enough, drink some more," Chanmugam says. "And water is always a great way to go."

It is also important to bear in mind that young children and senior citizens are more susceptible to dehydration. Their fluid intake should be monitored more closely.

Although increased water intake is necessary in the warmer seasons, Chanmugam cautions that too much intake of water can lead to other complications.

PREVENT COMMONPLACE INJURIES THIS SUMMER

Due to increased outdoor activity, the summer tends to bring more injuries to the emergency department, says Arjun Chanmugam, M.D. The following tips may help to prevent or treat some of those summertime mishaps.

Lawn Mower Safety – While lawn mower injuries are generally infrequent, they often necessitate a trip to the ED. The best prevention against such injury is to be cautious and attentive when operating the machinery. Eye and ear protection should be worn, in addition to close-toed shoes and long pants to shield projectiles from piercing the skin. Young children should not operate a mower and should stay clear of the area when one is in use.

Bee Stings – Bees always pose a problem during the summer, especially for those severely allergic. If difficulty breathing, or swelling of the tongue or mouth result from a sting, medical care should be sought immediately. After a first allergic reaction, an individual should carry an epinephrine injection (EpiPen), which helps to control subsequent allergic reactions by improving breathing and stimulating the heartbeat. If stung again, the individual should seek medical attention after injecting the epinephrine into the body. A second allergic reaction may be more severe than the first. With any sting, the individual should remove the stinger, wash the area with soap and water, and ice the sting to reduce swelling.

Mosquito Bites – With mosquito counts skyrocketing this year and the looming threat of the West Nile virus, it is important to wear protective clothing to defend against itchy bites and mosquito-borne illnesses. Sprays and lotions with DEET seem to be the most effective repellants.

Poison Ivy – Washing with soap and water within six hours of exposure to poison ivy can typically neutralize the poison, but wearing protective clothing is the best preventive measure. However, after a rash has appeared, it may be treated with over-the-counter lotions to reduce the itching.

 


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