Burns and Bites
By: Nicole Dorotik, MD
Summer is upon us, and along with the usual park time, swimming, barbeques and other fun in the sun, you may also experience two other well-known features of summer — sun- burns and insect bites.
Beyond the physical discomfort, burns and bites can also pose more serious health risks. Each sunburn increases your skin cancer risk, and our higher altitude increases the intensity of the sun's rays. Insect bites carry the risks of disease exposure and immune reactions. A little prevention and planning can reduce your risk.
Other than staying out of the sun, use of sunscreen is your best option. The choice of sun- screen can be very confusing, however, with the myriad of products available.
The American Academy of Dermatology has the following recommendations:
Insects fall into two main categories: stinging insects, such as bees, wasps, ants and spiders; and blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas, midges and ticks.
Unfortunately, there are no effective chemical repellents against stinging insects; however, most stings, while painful, are not dangerous to most people. Vulnerable populations should take necessary precaution. See your doctor if you are allergic as you may need to carry an epi pen with you for emergencies.
Biting insects are carriers of numerous communicable diseases. When used properly, chemical repellents can greatly reduce the number and frequency of bites. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research indicates that the most effective chemical repellent contains at least 10 percent DEET, which is considered the gold standard of insect repellents. The effectiveness of DEET plateaus at approximately 30 percent. Chemical repellents containing Picaridin, an ingredient usually found in Cutter brand products, are also effective, but for a shorter duration.
Guidelines when applying a chemical repellent:
Additionally, the following products have not proven to be effective: Citronella, botanical oils, oral agents, vitamin/herbal remedies, repellent wristbands, and electronic devices.