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Summer skin safety tips from Dr. Christina Hantsch

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Dr. Christina Hantsch, a toxicologist at Loyola University Medical Center, shared some summer skin safety tips. (WLS)

Summer can be an open invitation to explore the great outdoors. But with the fun comes the potential of putting your skin at risk.

Dr. Christina Hantsch, a toxicologist at Loyola University Medical Center, shared some summer skin safety tips.

"Mosquitoes and ticks are the two pests you primarily want to avoid because they can carry infectious diseases," said Jennifer Layden, MD, infectious disease specialist at Loyola University Health System. "Ticks can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus."

DEET is the most effective ingredient to protect against biting insects.

"Common insect repellent products contain up to 30 percent DEET for maximum protection," Hantsch said. "Products with DEET provide longer duration protection as the concentration of DEET increases."

The longest duration is up to five hours for 30 percent DEET concentration.

"Use a product appropriate for the duration of the outdoor activity," Hantsch said. "I recommend avoiding extended chemical product exposure by changing clothes and washing off insect repellent with soap and water when you come inside."

DEET and other insect repellants such as citronella are generally safe for individuals over 2 months of age. To use a specific product correctly, follow the directions on the package.

"Check labels to use a product that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as an added measure of safety," Layden said. "I usually recommend that the product be reapplied every few hours to maintain effectiveness."

Layden recommended that adults administer insect repellent to children. "Kids can have a difficult time manipulating cans and bottles. You want to avoid inhaling repellent or getting it in the mouth or eyes," she said.

Clothing that is pretreated with repellent is available and remains effective through many washings. "Permethrin-treated fabric is a great option for those who are very active outdoors in the warm months," Layden said. "Treated clothing is safe and approved."

Tips from Dr. Layden on how to avoid bugs this summer:
    Dusk and dawn are the prime hours for insects

    Wear long sleeves and long pants to cover skin

    Wear light colors, which don't attract bugs as much as darker colors

    Wear loose clothing to avoid skin irritation

"Calamine lotion is effective to take away the annoying itch of a mosquito bite," Hantsch said. For tick removal, use a tweezer as close to the entry of the skin as possible to remove the whole tick. "Clean the bite area with an antiseptic and cover with a loose bandage."

Signs that you need medical attention include fever, vomiting, excessive sleepiness, swelling, redness and infection.

More interesting facts
    UV ray exposure is an issue on both sunny and cloudy days as 80 percent of the sun's UV rays can get through the clouds

    UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

    Skin damage can occur in 15 minutes

    Most people (70-80 percent) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.

    The mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus bite between dusk and dawn.

    West Nile virus has been detected since 1999 in all lower 48 states (not in Hawaii or Alaska). Though anyone can get infected with West Nile virus, there are people at higher risk for severe disease. People over the age of 50 are at higher risk for encephalitis.

Related Topics:
healthsummerskin careskin cancerbug safety
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