Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but even with the best intentions, sometimes sunburn and bug bites happen.
Over the long term, too much exposure to those UV rays can cause more serious health problems, including skin cancer and eye problems, according to officials with the DuPage County Health Department.
While getting a bug bite is usually just an annoyance, some bites can cause significant health problems, including West Nile virus, Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The DuPage County Health Department has a number of recommendations to stay safe in the outdoors this summer.
Wearing sunscreen is key when outdoors, according to the Health Department. One ounce of sunscreen should be applied over skin 20 minutes before spending time outdoors. Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 SPF and provide protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
It’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours, particularly after swimming or sweating. And, don’t be fooled if it’s a cloudy day, even then it’s important to wear sunscreen outdoors.
Other sun safety tips include:
- Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when possible.
- Seek shade when possible and remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use extra caution near water or sand, which reflect the damaging rays of the sun and can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Check the UV Index, which provides information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA.
- For babies under 6 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding sun exposure and by dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats. Parents can also apply sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) to small areas like the face and back of the hands if protective clothing and shade are not available.
To try and keep mosquito bites to a minimum, the health department suggests avoiding time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, which is at dusk and dawn, according to the DuPage County Health Department.
Wearing insect repellant that includes insect repellent that includes DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 according to label instructions, according to the DuPage County Health Department. Before using insect repellants on infants, consult a physician.
Tick bites can lead to Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme Disease. The health department offers safety tips to prevent tick bites as well as tips on what to do in the case of a tick bite.
• In locations where ticks may be common, apply permethrin tick repellent, but only to clothing and only according to the directions on the label.
• Tuck long pants into socks and boots. Wearing light-colored pants makes ticks easier to see. Wear a head covering or hat for added protection.
• In areas where there are ticks, check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks.
• Remove any tick promptly. Do not try to burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick. Ticks can be safely disposed of by placing them in a container of soapy water or alcohol, sticking them to tape or flushing them down the toilet.
• Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water; apply an antiseptic to the bite site. If you experience a rash that looks like a bull's-eye, or a rash anywhere on the body or an unexplained illness accompanied by fever following a tick bite, consult your doctor.
• If you let pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Ticks can “hitch a ride” on your pets, but fall off in your home before they feed.
If a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bites or stings occurred in the past it is important to carry an allergy kit that a doctor prescribes, according to the DuPage Health Department. If chest pains, difficulty breathing, severe bleeding or sudden weakness or numbness occur after a bug bite, call 911 immediately.
For more information visit the DuPage County Health Department’s website.