Arkansas Pharmacist Association: The Great Outdoors

Arkansas Today

Spring is finally starting to make an appearance, the weather is cooperating, and everyone wants to be outside enjoying the Natural State. But there are things to watch out for when you’re enjoying that warmer weather. Dr. Brittany Sanders from the Arkansas Pharmacists Association is here to talk to us about how to stay safe when you get back outside.

What are some things to remember when you’re planning your next outing with the family?

There are four main things you want to be prepared for when you’re going to spending time outdoors and those are: Sun, Dehydration, Injuries, and Pests. Fortunately, your local pharmacist can help you prepare for all of these things.

If you’re going to spend a lot of time outside, whether it’s work or play, it’s important to make sure that you’re covered. You can start by applying sunscreen every two hours, and wearing a ballcap, sunglasses and long sleeves and pants if possible. Also, stay in the shade when you can. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, the sun’s rays are strongest from 10am to 2pm, so if your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.

We always hear that we’re not wearing enough sunscreen. Can you give us the basics of what kind of sunscreen we should be looking for and when to apply?

You want something that is at least 30 SPF and is a broad-spectrum sunscreen, meaning it will protect against ultraviolet A and B rays. Ideally, you want something that is water-resistant so that it doesn’t immediately wash off if you get in the water or are sweating, but you should be applying every two hours regardless. It’s also important to remember to cover all exposed areas, including your ears, tops of your feet, backs of your hands, and to use a lip balm with at least 15 SPF. Your pharmacist can help you pick out a sunscreen that will offer the best protection.

Another problem that can present itself during the summer months is dehydration.

That’s right. As spring and summer ramp up and people start getting more active outdoors, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated and to make sure to watch for dehydration in young children. Water is obviously going to be your best bet. Sometimes people reach for Gatorade or other sports drinks, which can be helpful if you’re doing high-intensity exercise or vigorous work in very hot weather, but it’s important to remember that they can be high in sugar and calories and aren’t a great choice for kids. You should also avoid fruit juices, sugary drinks, and caffeinated drinks.

It’s also important to pay attention to any medication you’re taking, is that right?

That’s absolutely correct. There are some very popular medications that can make you more susceptible to sun exposure. Drugs like tetracycline, doxycycline, Retin-A, Accutane and even some over the counter medications like antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs can cause a reaction when exposed to too much sunlight. Your pharmacist will be able to help you identify any medications that can cause heightened photosensitivity.

Injuries are another problem to watch out for. How can my pharmacist help me with that?

Sprained ankles are very common when the weather warms up and people get more active outside so just remember the acronym RICE – that’s Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Combine that with the use of pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen. It’s important, however, to read the labels when dealing with small children because there are important age cut-offs for each of those medications. For scrapes and cuts, you’ll want to clean it with hot water and soap, maybe even hydrogen peroxide, apply Neosporin, and use water-resistant flexible bandages, especially for sports players that will be moving a lot. All of those things for injuries and scrapes can be found at your local pharmacy

Finally, the worst part about summer – dealing with the bugs. What should we know about insect repellants?

It’s important to look for insect repellants that contain DEET with a concentration below 50%. DEET is safe to use on adults, children and infants older than 2 months, but stick with a concentration lower than 30% for infants. Products that have less than a 10% concentration may only last an hour or two, so it’s important to reapply or choose a higher concentration. It’s also important to make sure that you check for ticks, especially if you’ve been out in high grass or wooded areas. Consult your pharmacist for any questions about staying safe outdoors this spring and summer.

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