New national survey shows people love the beach but could use some brushing up on their “Safe Sun IQ;” women score higher than men
Columbia, Md. — MedStar Health has launched the second annual National Safe Sun Week to encourage people to enjoy spending time in the summer sun, safely. National Safe Sun Week 2022 takes place May 23-29, leading up to Memorial Day, the unofficial kick-off to summer.
“During this public health campaign, we hope to shine a light on the importance of sun safety to our patients and our community at large,” said MedStar Health Dermatologist Allison Larson, MD, chair of dermatology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “And while the sun is strongest in the summer months, we hope people get the message that they need to protect themselves all year round. Our goal with National Safe Sun Week is that we see less sun damage and fewer skin cancer patients, less heat illness, and more people living long, healthy lives free of disease that’s very preventable.”
During National Safe Sun Week, MedStar Health providers will share tips to help prevent sunburns and skin cancer, raising awareness on the dangers that sun damage brings to people of all races and ethnicities, along with advice on how to safely exercise outdoors and prevent heat illness.
Like last year, planes will fly banners bearing a message from MedStar Health reminding sunbathers from Ocean City, Maryland to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to reapply their sunscreen every two hours. Weather permitting, the planes will fly Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
In conjunction with National Safe Sun Week, for a second year, MedStar Health conducted a national survey on behaviors and perceptions around sun safety. The results reveal that we still need some enlightenment when it comes to healthy habits and enjoying the outdoors safely:
- 84% of people surveyed say they know a good sunscreen is important but only 31% say they use sunscreen regularly. 30% believe SPF 15 is better protection than SPF 30.
- 41% say a base tan using a tanning bed is a good way to prevent sunburn.
- Most people prioritize snacks over sunscreen when packing for the beach. For men it’s #4 on the list; for women sunscreen is #3 after towels and snacks.
- 55% say they don’t perform skin exams for suspicious moles.
- Just about half know the proper time to reapply sunscreen is every two hours unless you’re swimming or sweating.
In addition to protecting our skin, Sun Safety also means being smart when it comes to heat illness like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be life threatening.
In the United States, heat waves claim more lives each year than all other weather-related exposures combined (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes) (CDC 2021). That’s about 700 deaths per year in the U.S.
“Classical heat stroke not related to exertion is more common in very young children, the elderly, or people with dehydration or other medical conditions,” said Sports Medicine and Emergency Physician Korin Hudson, MD, who provides primary care to the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards. “They may also take medications that put them at higher risk. In contrast, exertional heat stroke is more likely to occur in otherwise healthy young people. They may not be acclimated to the heat on the first hot day of the year, for example, or they might be visiting a more humid climate they’re not used to.”
Heat stroke is a medical emergency! Anyone with altered mental status such as confusion, collapse, or seizure, should receive immediate medical care and follow these steps:
- Call 911.
- Remove the overheated person from hot environment if possible.
- Use ice packs or cold damp towels and fans to cool.
- Some athletic events and races are equipped to manage exertional heat stroke with cold water immersion tubs and will cool the patient before transporting them to the hospital-- this has been proven to improve survival.
“For prevention I recommend things like dressing in cool breathable clothing, hydrating before and during exercise and avoiding the hottest parts of the day. All of these can go a long way to prevent heat illness,” said Dr. Hudson.
For more information, please visit https://nationaltoday.com/national-safe-sun-week/.
Dr. Larson and Dr. Hudson will take questions in a Facebook live event on Thursday, May 26 at noon. Here is the link to register.