Ask the Community Pharmacy & Seniors Wellness Expert – Tammy Callaghan, BSP, Pharmacist
Summertime Fun – Fact versus Fiction about Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellent
Summer, it is one of my favorite times of the year. There is nothing better than enjoying the sun, sand, ice cream or a marshmallow roast with family and friends. Those pesky mosquitos and painful sunburns, however, can put a halt to all that summer fun. To make this season the most enjoyable one yet, let’s debunk some common misconceptions about sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Everyone loves to be out enjoying the warmth of the sun, whether it’s at the lake, your own backyard, or on a tropical island far away. The important thing to remember is to arm yourself the proper knowledge to keep you and your loved ones protected from the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays. Here are a list of some common sunscreen myths:
- Myth – Sunscreen is not required on cloudy days. Fact – Clouds only block approximately 20% of UV rays therefore you can still get a burn on cloudy days.
- Myth – I do not need to wear a sunscreen if I have a darker skin tone. Fact – People with a darker skin tone may be less likely to burn but they still can. It is recommended that everyone regardless of colour wear a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection against the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays.
- Myth – Sunscreen is not required for those who work inside. Fact – Any exposure to sunlight through an office, car or plane window requires protection.
- Myth – SPF refers to the number of minutes that a person will receive sun protection while outside. Fact – Not exactly. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) refers to the amount of UV radiation required to produce a sunburn on protected skin versus unprotected skin. The math is simple SPF 30 means only 1/30 of harmful UVB rays will reach your skin while the remaining 29/30 blocks 97% of the UVB radiation.
- Myth – Sunscreen needs to only be applied once because its protection lasts all day. Fact – Sunscreen must be reapplied frequently throughout the day. Make a routine of applying it every 2 hours while outside and even more frequently when enjoying water activities
- Myth – Sunscreen provides protection the minute after it’s applied. Fact – Sunscreen takes approximately 15-20 minutes to bind to the skin and should be applied well in advance to sun exposure.
Debunking some of these common myths should make the summer very enjoyable for everyone. Here are a few tips to prevent damage from the UV rays: apply sunscreen often, use a broad spectrum sunscreen that provides UVA and UVB protection, apply sunscreen everywhere including the tips of the ears where the skin is thin and burns easily, wear a wide brimmed hat, sit under some shade such as an umbrella, protect your eyes with sunglasses and your lips with a chap stick that has SPF protection and lastly, keep yourself hydrated.
Now, that we have the daytime covered it’s time to focus on campfires and marshmallow roasts in the evening. These enjoyable events can be disrupted by those annoying mosquitos, so let’s talk about some common misconceptions regarding mosquito repellant so that summer nights can be just as enjoyable as summer days. Here is a list of a few common myths:
- Myth – Foods that have a higher sodium content or potassium content such as bananas increase your attraction to mosquitos. Fact – A hungry mosquito does not care about the content of your food or drink consumption.
- Myth – The higher the percentage of DEET in a product, the better the protection. Fact – The percentage of DEET determines how long protection may last. For example, a product that contains 30 percent DEET provides 5 to 8 hours of protection whereas 10 percent DEET lasts about 2.5 to 4 hours.
- Myth – DEET is dangerous, natural products are better. Fact – DEET is the most effective repellent and safe when applied properly.
- Some natural products such as citronella or eucalyptus oil may need to be applied 3 or 4 times more often than the lowest strength of DEET in order to provide some protection.
- Myth – Mosquito Repellent and Sunscreen can be applied at the same time. Fact – Sunscreen should be applied 15-20 minutes prior to applying mosquito repellant. This time is needed to ensure the sunscreen binds to the skin and provides proper protection.
In short, summer does not need to be ruined by nasty sunburns or pesky mosquitos. Taking the time to apply sunscreen and mosquito repellant properly to anyone over the age of 6 months will allow for a lot of good times this summer. A few guidelines to follow for mosquito repellant are: apply products containing 10% DEET once daily for children 6 months to 2 years and children 2-12 years can use a product with 10% DEET up to three times a day. Remember the expert pharmacists at Cheetham’s Pharmacy are here to provide advice and guidance on sunscreen and mosquito repellant for you and your family. Do not hesitate to ask if your medication or medical condition can increase your sensitivity to the sun, as many prescription medication can. Make this summer the most enjoyable one yet!