sun exposure

The Sun is Hot! Skin Cancer’s Not!

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As we all know, Memorial Day is the beginning of summer! Forget the calendar and head to the beaches! But don’t—please don’t—forget sun safety.

This year, over 10,000 Americans will die from melanoma. That’s about 1 person every hour. Some 160,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma. And that’s not counting other types of skin cancer. No wonder May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

What Causes Skin Cancer?

Exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays causes skin cancer most commonly. Either from long-term exposure or short-term intense exposure, UV rays damage the DNA (genetic material) in our cells, causing some to mutate into cancerous cells. Cumulative exposure results most often in basal cell or squamous cell cancers that are quite curable when treated early. Intense exposure, usually before age 18, can cause melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer but for which survival rates are good when treated early.

Most people encounter UV rays from the sun, usually during summer months (and even on cloudy days). But UV rays from tanning salons are just as dangerous and should be avoided. Less common causes include repeated exposure to X-rays or hazardous chemicals.

Anyone can get skin cancer, although fair-toned persons are at greater risk.

What Skin Cancer Symptoms Should I Look For?

There are basically 4 things to look for, since different types of skin cancer present slightly different symptoms.

1.     Actinic Keratosis (AK). These are pre-cancerous lesions that often appear as dry, scaly spots or patches of red rash or slightly raised skin. People might have several on the scalp, face, neck, arms, or other parts of the body. They can be easily removed by a dermatologist, but they are a sign of risk of skin cancer. Left untreated, they can develop into squamous cell cancer.

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2.     Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). This is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 95% of cases. When detected early, survival rates are very high. These cancers are usually flesh-colored with pearl or white bumps. Early detection is important because they can grow into surrounding tissue and cause other problems.
 

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3.     Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). The second most common type of skin cancer, SCC appears usually as a red bump with a scaly patch. It can also appear as an open sore that heals, but reopens. SCC sites can occur on nearly any part of the body. Early detection allows treatment that will prevent this form of skin cancer from spreading to other areas.
 

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4.     Melanoma. Compared to other types, melanoma is relatively rare, but much more deadly. It often appears as an enlarged, irregularly shaped mole. Close examination of moles that follows this acronym can often detect melanoma:

A = Asymmetry (one half differs from the other)
B = Border (irregular, poorly defined border)
C = Color (usually shades of tan, brown or black, but sometimes white or red)
D = Diameter (often about the size of a pencil eraser)
E = Evolving (growing larger or changing shape or color)

If you suspect that a mole or other abnormal spot might be melanoma, see a dermatologist at once. Left untreated, melanoma can spread to other body parts and become life-threatening.

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For more information about different types of skin cancer, symptoms, and treatment, visit the American Academy of Dermatology website.

How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer?

We can all prevent skin cancer by following these simple steps.

·      Avoid unprotected exposure to sunlight during the summer, especially between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm. (Cloudy days offer no significant protection.)
 

·      When outside, apply sunscreen rated at SPF 30 or higher to all exposed skin liberally and often.
 

·      Do not expose infants (younger than 6 months) to direct sunlight. Make sure that children are protected by sunscreen and/or clothing that UV rays cannot penetrate.
 

·      Avoid tanning salons.
 

·      Be careful around water, snow, and sand, since these surfaces can reflect UV rays.
 

·      Keep a close eye on moles, rashes, scaly patches of skin, or other areas that appear abnormal. If any of these areas change in appearance, have them checked by a health care professional.
 

·      Get a complete body scan by a dermatologist or other health care professional once per year, especially if you are at high risk. Remember that skin cancer can arise later in life because of sun damage caused during childhood or adolescent years.

As always, if you have questions or need treatment for overexposure to the sun, come to Kathy’s Urgent Care. We’re here to help.

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Keep Your Kids Safe for a Fun Summer!

We all want our kids to have a fun summer. And most of the time they do without much help from us. Some of your happiest times were probably spent outdoors with your childhood friends. Your children are no different. They love to go to the beach, play at the park, swim in the pool, jump on the trampoline, camp out with relatives, hike in the woods, and so forth. Such activities help them develop physically and emotionally.

But as parents, we need to prevent injuries that can turn a fun summer into a painful time or even a life-altering tragedy. Here are 6 ways to help your kids have an enjoyable summer season.

1.     Prevent Sunburn

These days, you’re probably aware of the hazards of too much sun exposure, especially for infants and children. But it never hurts to be reminded of a few tips to prevent painful sunburn or worse.

  • Keep children out of direct sunlight or cover them completely between 10:00am and 4:00pm when UV rays are strongest. Infants under 6 months of age should avoid all sun exposure.
  • If children play outside during midday, apply a sunscreen with SPF strength of 30 or higher at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure and have them wear protective clothing (wide-brimmed hats, sun-protective clothing that covers arms and legs, and sunglasses with UV protection).
  • For children playing in water, apply a water-resistant sunscreen every 2-3 hours.
  • If both sunscreen and insect repellant are required, apply the sunscreen first and then apply the insect repellant. Do not use a combination product.
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To treat a mild sunburn at home, try applying cool cloths or taking cool showers. Lotions containing aloe vera can help ease pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol™) can help soothe a headache. It is also important to drink water to prevent or relieve dehydration. Avoid using topical steroids on young children unless directed by a physician.

More extreme sunburns that involve blistering, high fever, severe headache, dehydration, confusion, or nausea require the sort of medical attention that urgent care centers provide.

2.     Police the Playground and the Beach

 

Playgrounds and beaches provide places for good exercise and lots of fun. They can also be dangerous.

Make sure that your favorite playground has well-maintained equipment. Rusty metal equipment can lead to metal splinters and nasty infections. Untreated wooden equipment can produce splinters and unpleasant scrapes. Loose bolts are accidents waiting to happen. You might also check for poisonous plants such as poison ivy and infestations of bees or other pests.

Beaches are always a favorite with kids, but you should be aware of potential hazards. It goes without saying that you should always watch children in the water. Water depth and wave action can change rapidly. Also watch out for various critters—jellyfish, sea urchins, sting rays, even sharks—that can injure unsuspecting children and adults. Remember that the water and beach are these animals’ primary habitat, not yours. Medical attention might be needed for stings and bites.

A word about trampolines. If you’re thinking of getting one for your home, don’t. Citing nearly 100,000 injuries per year, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages recreational trampoline use for the home, even when all the safety rules (listed below) are followed. Kids are often injured when bumping into others, trying stunts like somersaulting, falling or jumping off the trampoline, or just landing wrong. Very serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries result, including broken bones, concussions, neck and spinal cord injuries that can lead to paralysis or even death.

If you already have and use a trampoline at home, follow these rules:

  • Allow only one jumper at a time.
  • Do not allow stunts, especially somersaults.
  • Adults who are willing and able to enforce safety rules must supervise at all times.
  • Make sure that safety netting and padding is in place and maintained.
  • Check your homeowner’s insurance policy to make sure that you’re covered for trampoline-related injuries.

3.     Avoid Insect Bites and Stings

 

Insect bites and stings can interrupt summer fun. Ticks are plentiful this year, and they carry debilitating, sometimes lethal, diseases [insert link to blog post on ticks]. Always check for ticks on anyone who has been outside, and remove them immediately. Using an insect repellant with at least 20% DEET can help.

Insect repellants are usually effective to keep mosquitoes in check. An occasional mosquito bite is seldom cause for concern, but being covered by mosquito bites will ruin any hike or camping trip in short order.

Bee and wasp stings can be dangerous, especially for persons who are allergic to them. For anyone who is allergic and at risk of anaphylactic shock, take the following steps:

  • Call 911.
  • Use an EpiPen™ to inject epinephrine into outer muscle of the thigh, not into hands or feet.
  • Go to an urgent care facility or emergency room immediately after an EpiPen™ injection, even if symptoms subside, since there can be a delayed allergic reaction.

If there are no symptoms of allergic reaction, do the following:

  • Remove the stinger by scraping with a flat edge. Do not pinch or use tweezers since that will inject more poison.
  • Apply ice or cold compress.
  • If stung on an arm or leg, elevate the area.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol™) for pain or an antihistamine (Benadryl™) for itching. Do not use aspirin.
  • Follow up with a visit to an urgent care facility in 2-5 days if necessary.

If you have any questions or concerns after a bee sting, call or visit an urgent care center.

4.     Patch Up Those Cuts and Scrapes

Most minor cuts and scrapes can be treated at home. However, if the wound is deep, dirty, or caused by an animal, a tetanus shot (or booster) might be needed.

Remember the following steps:

  • Wash your hands.
  • If bleeding doesn’t stop, apply pressure with a clean bandage for a few minutes.
  • Clean the wound with clear water. Do not get soap or other cleansers into the wound, but use them as necessary to clean around the wound.
  • If any debris remains in the wound, try removing it with (disinfected) tweezers. If you cannot remove the debris, go to an urgent care facility.
  • Apply an antibiotic cream and cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
  • Change the bandage once a day or if it gets wet.
  • After the wound scabs over, stop applying the bandage.

It’s always a good idea to keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy for these situations.

Deep cuts or wounds that won’t stop bleeding might require stitches. Visit an urgent care facility for that sort of treatment.

5.     Attend to Head Injuries, Sprains, and Fractures

Bumps on the head are common for children and usually do not require medical attention. Nevertheless, if the following symptoms occur, you should go to an urgent care facility:

  • Unconsciousness, confusion, or disorientation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Persistent, severe headache.
  • Persistent irritability.
  • Memory loss.
  • Visual impairment.

If severe head trauma has occurred (immediate loss of consciousness; severe bleeding from head, nose, or ears; weakness in arm or leg; loss of balance, slurred speech, seizures, repeated vomiting, persistent crying, or cessation of breathing), CALL 911. Keep the victim still, lying down, and quiet. Do not move the victim unless absolutely necessary to get the victim out of further harm’s way. To avoid further spinal injury, do not move the neck. If the victim is wearing a helmet, leave it in place.

Sprains and fractures are sometimes difficult to distinguish. If your child merely rolled an ankle, then it might be a mild sprain. In such cases, the child might be able to put weight on the ankle, although sometimes there can be impressive swelling and pain. Rest, ice, and elevation will generally produce a good result in a few days.

P – Protect
R – Rest
I –  Ice
C – Ice
E – Elevation

If, however, there is major swelling, pain, numbness, or if it is extremely difficult for the ankle to bear any weight, a break might have occurred. Broken ankles, wrists, or other bones always require medical attention. Bear in mind that severe sprains can take longer to heal than some fractures.

Because it is difficult to tell a broken bone from a severe sprain, don’t take any chances. Go to your nearest urgent care center to get a professional diagnosis. Most have X-ray equipment on site and are prepared to treat broken bones and sprains.

6.     Keep Allergies in Check

During the summer, the weeds and grasses that developed during the spring continue to spread pollen that causes allergic reactions in children and adults. Sometimes, over-the-counter antihistamines such as Zyrtec™ can control these reactions.

But often, allergic reactions to pollen or molds can be truly debilitating with the potential to ruin a summer of fun. If you or your child suffer from seasonal allergies, ask a health professional to evaluate the situation. They can offer tips and medications that will help you avoid a summer filled with sniffles and runny eyes.

For all of these situations and if you are located near us, call or come to Kathy’s Urgent Care so that we can help you and your children enjoy a fun summer. Remember, we’re here to help you 7 days a week. No appointment needed!

Authored by Dr. Tom Brown