Spring break: The risk you may not have considered


by KING 5 HealthLink


Posted on April 1, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Planning to trade in the dark, gray clouds of Seattle for something more tropical? Dr. Ulrike Ochs of Virginia Mason says you're more at risk this time of year for sunburn.

"We haven't seen sun since September. When you do go someplace sunny, you're incredibly susceptible to the ultraviolet light," Dr. Ochs said.

Does that mean you should visit a tanning salon for a base tan?

"That is like the worst plan of all. The electric beach. So, what happens in a tanning bed is that it's largely UVA, and UVA is like the worst and most insidious of ultraviolet light wavelength. So, you're getting damage before you go and then you think you have this base so then you tend to be out in the sun more," Ochs said.

If you must be brown, Dr. Ochs recommends a spray tan or self-tanners before you go and then use lots of sunscreen during your vacation.

How much? More than most of us usually apply.

"It's the equivalent of two tablespoons or a shot glass. It's not very common that people actually use this much sunscreen to cover their body every two to three hours while they're in the sun. That's a lot of sunscreen," Ochs said.

So you say you're going skiing instead so all this advice doesn't apply?  Think again. High altitude and sun make for a bad combination.

"Spring skiing. Those are the worst sunburns that I have seen," said Dr. Ochs.

The Academy of Dermatology recommends a sunscreen with SPF 30, but for spring break, Dr. Ochs advises 60 or higher.

"One of your goals should probably be not to get a suntan and I congratulate my patients when they tell me they've just been in Palm Springs or Hawaii and they'll often tell me, 'Look, I just came back from Hawaii' and they're white as, you know, the underbelly of a fish and we both smile and we both think that's great," said Ochs.

Dr Ochs says covering up long sleeves or a rash-guard at the pool is also a good strategy. She also recommends wearing a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.