Skin safety in the hot summer sun: How to avoid skin and heat related illnesses

Published: Jul. 16, 2023 at 8:52 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - If you ever find yourself asking if you should be wearing sunscreen, you probably should be.

Karishma Mehta is a resident for Novant Health Family Medicine. She says there are many misconceptions when it comes to when you should wear sunscreen and how often you need to reapply it.

With the hot summer sun and humid days, it’s important to reapply about every two hours, but keep in mind, if you are sweating a lot or going in and out of the water, you might need to reapply more often.

“The other things that you can do to protect yourself is also with protective clothing, like hats, sunglasses, even long sleeve shirts and pants. I know that can be a little bit more difficult in the summer when you’re outside and especially on the beach here in Wilmington,” Mehta said. “I would also say just being a little bit more diligent about trying to stay in shaded areas to if you can find some coverage on the beach, underneath maybe a tree or something like that.”

Mehta added that SPF 30 is typically recommended.

“Anything higher than that, really, we don’t really have any proven benefit, just in terms of efficacy,” Mehta said.

She also says you should be wearing sunscreen even if you are in the shade. And it’s important to check if your everyday lotion or makeup has sunscreen in it for an added benefit to take care of your skin.

Many sun-related illnesses can quickly turn into heat-related illnesses.

“There are a couple of different things that we look out for in terms of sun poisoning. You know, we get concerned about heat exhaustion versus heatstroke, those are a little bit more concerning because then there’s that component of dehydration along with, you know, the heat rash that you’re also having. You know, we lose a lot of water from our skin, which is also not really a well-known fact but it is very important along with protecting your skin with you know, any sort of SPF sunscreen to also stay hydrated while you’re outside too,” Mehta said.

If you find yourself with a sunburn or even sun poisoning, Mehta said that aloe does actually help provide some relief to your skin.

“The caution that you want to take with those over-the-counter creams and lotions is you want to make sure that they don’t have a lot of additives just in terms of perfumes or scents or anything like that because that can also sometimes negatively affect your skin and cause a little bit more irritation that you already have on top of the heat rash,” Mehta said. “Aloe definitely has a lot of different benefits, especially with your skin. You know, I think for any sort of regular heat rash that you’re having, it can definitely be beneficial.”

How to protect yourself against heat-related illnesses