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Feature Story

Hot season skin scenarios

Steps to ensure a safe and healthy vacation.

By Darleth Romana-Bantiles, M.D.

APRIL 2013

Summer means sunny weather conducive for outings and vacations. But before you savor the sun on your skin, here are some tips to prevent or manage certain problems that come with the season, lest they ruin your excursion.


Save your skin

Beaches and pools are favorite summer venues. Cindy, a post-graduate student, went to Boracay and brought home not only souvenirs, but also skin that was red, warm and painful to touch. According to Althea Tiamzon, M.D., a fellow of the Philippine Dermatologic Society, a sunburn is an acute inflammatory reaction that occurs after excessive exposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, specifically UVB. It’s generally classified as a superficial or first-degree burn. Addressing its symptoms is the primary management, giving the skin time to heal, which generally takes one week. First aid treatment includes the use of saline compresses, soothing emollients and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like paracetamol  to relieve the pain and swelling. For more severe cases with associated blister formation, fever, chills, nausea or vomiting, immediate medical attention is needed.


Skin tip:

Sunburn is best prevented by using broad-spectrum sunscreens with UVA and UVB protection. It’s also good to avoid going out when the midday sun is up, between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It’s best to consult your doctor if you’re on a photosensitive medication—such as acne  medications, some pain relievers and antibiotics or anti-diabetes medications—as sun avoidance is advised.


What lurks beneath

Swimming in open water may lead you to encounter unfriendly sea creatures—like jellyfish or sea urchins that can leave painful reminders of your unfortunate brush with them. Dr. Tiamzon stresses that it’s best to follow up immediately with a dermatologist after a sting, as some species of jellyfish can cause delayed and persistent hypersensitivity reactions.


First aid for sea urchin and jellyfish stings

• Douse the area with vinegar or baking soda or rinse the tentacles off with seawater. Do not use freshwater, methylated spirits, or alcohol in any form to deactivate tentacles, because these all may cause a rapid massive discharge of jellyfish nematocysts—capsules that contain those stingers.

• Use tweezers to remove any sea urchin spines or jellyfish tentacles or apply shaving cream and gently scrape the affected area with a razor to remove jellyfish stings. You can also cautiously apply melted wax to the injury, allow the wax to set, then peel it off to remove the tiny spines.

• After the tentacles are removed, immerse the affected area for 30 to 90 minutes in water as hot as the injured person can tolerate. Repeat as necessary to control pain.

• Scrub the wound with soap and water then flush extensively with freshwater.

• Don’t close the wound with tape. 

• If signs of infection, such as pus, redness or heat occur, apply topical antibiotic ointment.

• Oral antibiotics can be recommended by your doctor for infection. He or she can advise you about the right drug, duration and precautions to take, including checking for drug allergies. Some antibiotics can cause an increased sensitivity to the sun, so use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15. 



Skin tip:

Swim only at patrolled beaches with properly-trained lifeguards and adequate treatment facilities. Stings may also result from remnants of floating damaged tentacles, so avoid swimming in infested waters, especially after a storm.


Wearing protective clothing such as a wet suit, rash guard and gloves, may also help. If possible, use sunblock containing jellyfish and sea lice repellent.


Protect yourself from the elements

If water isn’t your thing, you can try scaling new heights on mountains or trails. Or, more family-oriented parks or playgrounds may be an alternative setting of choice. But these places also carry risks. Angela, 7, was allowed by her mom to play at the village park. A few minutes later, she was crying—a bee had stung her finger.


When it comes to bee stings, never squeeze the stinger—it may worsen the situation. It’s best to scrape it off with a card or a clean, long fingernail. Insect bites can be treated with a cold compress for 10 to 15 minutes to relieve the pain. Putting calamine lotion may also help.


Roaming the outdoors may also make you prone to bumps or bruises, scrapes and cuts. As long as there’s no excessive pain or bleeding, no sign or symptom of a broken bone, no paralysis or tingling sensation, and the cut is not more than half an inch, a doctor’s consult may not be necessary. Cleaning the injury with soap and water is important, so is applying a topical antibiotic if contact with dirt or dust occurred with an open-skin injury. For injuries on closed skin, application of an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes and elevation of the area will relieve symptoms.


Skin tip:

Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially if you are going to areas where there may be a lot of bugs. Apply DEET-free insect repellents to exposed skin.

Did you know that even inside your home, threats to skin health exist? Check out the April issue of HealthToday magazine to know more about this and other summer skin scenarios, and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

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