Wow! I am amazed at the number of positive notes and feedback I have received from my initial email! I also have been given many ideas/suggestions about what some of you might want to know. However, I do not want to inundate you with too-frequent emails. So, since I just sent out the introductory one, I’m sending this one out in about two weeks from the first and after that, no more than once per month.
Q: “Since it’s getting warmer and wild animals are stirring, how can I protect my skin to prevent sun damage and bug bites? What do I do if I have a bite? What would you recommend to carry for a day out at the beach or hiking or canoeing? What do I do if I am bitten by a SNAKE?!”
A: Many questions in one!
Sun: The sun is absolutely essential to life on earth – however, too much sun exposure does indeed cause multiple medical problems and most of us should take precautions when our skin is exposed outdoors.
Most all individuals, regardless of skin color, should use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 (SPF= sun protection factor). Fairer skin people could opt for an SPF of 30. SPFs higher than 30 are only giving you minimal additional protection, so if the cost is greater than an SPF 15 or 30, don’t waste your money.
The most effective sunscreens have a physical blocking agent like zinc oxide (my other practice, Azura Skin Care Center, carries medical-grade sunscreens by EltaMD).
Reapply sunscreen often! The frequency of reapplication will vary on your skin color and activity – the lighter you are, the more you perspire, or if you are swimming, the more often you should apply. Don’t forget your ears and the backs of your hands and forearms. Most skin cancers caused by sun damage are on the face, back of the hands, forearms and upper shoulders/chest/back.
Also, sun exposure increases the likelihood of wrinkles! But don’t worry, Azura has Botox and Dysport and microneedling to help with that! 🙂
For those of us follicularly challenged (i.e. bald), hats are also very useful.
Insects/”Bugs”: The most numerous creatures on the earth are insects. Some are annoying like mosquitos, bees/wasps, fire ants, and ticks. Most insects are active in the early morning and early evening and are more numerous around bodies of water and treed/overgrown areas. Avoiding these times of days and areas will reduce your chance of insect envenomation (fancy word for insect bite/sting)!
Insects are reportedly attracted to CO2 which is abundant in the breath we exhale – though I don’t recommend not exhaling. The most effective barriers according to a Consumer Reports report (other than clothing, which isn’t a guarantee), are: a chemical called DEET (NN diethyly meta toluamide); a synthetic chemical derived to resemble a chemical from the plants that produce black pepper called Icaridin or Picaridin; and an oil from the Corymbia citriodora tree commonly called Lemon Eucalyptus.
DEET has been around for a long time and is most effective in concentrations from 7-30%. It is considered safe by almost everyone except the “alternative facts” people.
Picaridin is not as readily available in the US and is not as old as DEET, but is equally as effective in concentrations of about 20%.
The Lemon Eucalyptus oil is the most “natural” of the three and in concentrations of 30% is as effective as the other two.
If you are bitten/stung by an insect, most of the time it is a minor inconvenience and you will experience slight discomfort, itching, redness that usually resolves quickly. Always wash the area with soap and water and keep clean; apply an antibiotic ointment if desired and perhaps a topical steroid cream for itching like 1% hydrocortisone.
If the envenomation site does not resolve or becomes more red or painful, then you would need to be seen to evaluate for possible cellulitis. If you have an allergic reaction with breathing problems, call 911 as these situations can be very serious.
Tick bites most often do not transmit disease, but can. Most common tick-borne illnesses are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Lyme Disease, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), and Ehrlichiosis. If the tick is visible, use tweezers (forceps) held parallel to the skin and get under the tick as much as possible and gently and slowly pull up until the tick is loosened, then kill the thing! Wash the area with soap and water and treat like any other envenomation and observe for rash, fever, body aches, and chills – if those symptoms occur, you need to be seen!
There are many items that you can carry in a first aid kit. It obviously depends on the size of the kit you want to lug around. Some things to consider packing wherever you go: saline (like contact lens solution stuff) for irrigation; hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds, gauze (like 4x4s) for cleaning, holding pressure, etc., Band-aids of various sizes, antibiotic ointment like Polysporin or Neosporin, ACE wrap (3” and/or 4”), Tylenol, Ibuprofen or Aleeve, Benadryl, a pencil, pad of paper, small flashlight, and rubber bands. When doing anything strenuous in heat, always carry plenty of water to drink too!
Snakes!: Since the story of Adam and Eve, snakes have had a bad reputation that is really not deserved at all. According to the NC Cooperative Extension, North Carolina has approximately 37 different species of snakes, but only six are venomous and only three venomous snakes are found in the Piedmont region of NC – Copperheads, Rattlesnakes, and Cottonmouths. In general, when you are surprised by a snake; leave it alone! It is likely as surprised as you. Do not bother it and leave it undisturbed. If you are bitten by a snake, try to see what it looks like or take a picture of it and proceed to the emergency room. Most snake bites are treated as simple puncture wounds, but venomous bites may require anti-venom and other supportive care.