Sun Safety – The Travel Pharmacist

Sun Safety

Summer’s finally here and it’s time to get outside! Family fun at the beach or lake includes lots of time out in the sun – but too much sun can be harmful down the road. In fact, during childhood a single blistering sunburn can double the risk of skin cancer later in life. But we love the sun and being outside! Thankfully, damage from the sun is completely preventable as long as we follow a few SUN SAFETY TIPS.

Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the Sun Safety Alliance recommend wearing protective clothing and hats as a first line of defense to shield tender skin.

  • Limit outdoor activities during the harshest sun time of 10am -2pm
  • Protect the eyes by using sunglasses with 100% UV protection
  • Beware of surfaces like snow, sand, concrete, and water which can reflect the damaging rays


A sunscreen works by blocking the sun’s UV rays on the body where it’s applied. The sun naturally produces both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause skin aging, while UVB rays cause burns. Picking the right  sunscreen is important. Consider factors such as the amount of time in the water, the activity you’ll be doing, and the time of day you plan to be out in the sun.

  • Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB) with an SPF of at least 15
  • Apply to children older than 6 months old
  • Apply 30 minutes BEFORE going out and reapply every 2 hours
  • Reapply after swimming, sweating, or towel drying

Sun Sensitive Medications

Medicines and the sun sometimes don’t mix well. Some drugs can cause a photosensitivity reaction. The occurs when an individual taking a particular drug is exposed to sunlight and the skin reacts with a rash, intense burning, redness and swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms or your burn seems out of proportion to the amount of sun exposure, it may be a result of photosensitivity. Here are just a few medications to be aware of – but always check with your doctor or pharmacist before going out in the sun whenever a new medicine is prescribed.

  • Retin-A (tretinoin)
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine)
  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • Zithromax (azithromycin)


Typically, the redness and pain of a sunburn will appear in one to 20 hours after the exposure. However, the skin doesn’t have to turn red to be damaged. A more serious sunburn may present with fever, nausea, prickly sensations, and chills. Small blisters and lizard-like peeling of the skin as the burn begins to heal are also common.

  • Cool baths and cold compresses are soothing for sun-reddened skin
  • Orange juice or Vitamin C supplements help give the body extra immune support while the skin heals
  • Anti-inflammatory pain relievers, like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium work well to ease the pain
  • The aloe plant (or handy jar of aloe gel) is thought to work in two ways. First, the compounds in the gel limit the effects of bradykinin, a pain-producing agent in our bodies. Second, aloe stimulates skin cell growth, immune response, and regeneration of some types of nerve cells.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

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