DAVID GREENE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Today in Your Health it is the unofficial start of summer. You know, that time of year when people start thinking about sunscreen and dehydration and bugs. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey thinks about these things a lot. But when she came by to report on them in our studios she had a problem.
ALLISON AUBREY: You know, I don't want to do the story here, Steve.
AUBREY: I feel like I'm in a cave. It's dark. It's windowless. Let's get outside.
INSKEEP: I'm not going to say no to that.
AUBREY: All right. Want to go to the park?
AUBREY: Let's go.
(Soundbite of birds chirping)
INSKEEP: Oh, it's beautiful up here. We're on the top of this ridgeline overlooking Washington, D.C. The Washington Monument is down there. Somewhere over there is the Capitol. And it's sunny.
AUBREY: And the sun is overhead.
INSKEEP: Directly overhead.
AUBREY: So do you have sunscreen on?
INSKEEP: You kidding me?
AUBREY: All right. Let me just say - I'm not going to be preachy here. I think we all know that if you burn your skin you're going to damage the cells and over time that could increase the risk of skin cancer. But I think what we need to do here is a little demonstration.
AUBREY: So I've got some props. This, as you can see is a…
INSKEEP: A shot glass.
AUBREY: Shot glass.
INSKEEP: I think you've got a really interesting recommendation for how to deal with hot weather. I like this.
(Soundbite of laughter)
AUBREY: Well, hold on here a second. And we've got some sunscreen. Now, when I talked to dermatologist Darryl Regal, who practices in New York, here's what he told me about the amount of sunscreen you need to use.
Dr. DARRYL REGAL (Dermatologist): A shot glass is an ounce. So that's what it should take to cover your whole body if you're at the pool.
AUBREY: Do you think people really follow this?
INSKEEP: A full shot glass of sunscreen? Probably not. It's all greasy and icky and gross.
AUBREY: All right. So we're going to put the icky and greasy stuff right here into the shot glass. More or less that is about an ounce, all right?
AUBREY: So I'm going to pour this into your palm.
INSKEEP: Could I have a potato with my sour cream? Ok. Pour it into the palm. My gosh.
AUBREY: Certainly people are not going to go through this drill every time. But as a demonstration it's sort of interesting to do once to see how much sunscreen you really need.
INSKEEP: Ok. So that's the first rule. Use a lot. Use more than you think you need to. But what about the type of sunscreen that you choose?
AUBREY: You know, here's the deal. You want a sunscreen that's got both UVA and UVB protection. For a long time we thought that UVB was the thing we wanted to protect ourselves from, so the SPF factor in sunscreens that refers to the protection from UVB rays.
INSKEEP: Is that the number on there like 10 or 15…
INSKEEP: …or whatever it is.
AUBREY: SPF 15, sun protection factor 15.
INSKEEP: The higher the number the better?
AUBREY: More protection. Now we've realized that both UVA and UVB rays are damaging. So the FDA has this new system, which they've yet to finalize, where they're actually going to put a star system - a star ranking onto sunscreen bottles, with four stars being the best. That would suggest you get the broad spectrum, as they call it, UVA and UVB ray protection.
INSKEEP: That would be like a movie rating. That's great. I loved it. It was better than "Cats." It was great. Ok. Let me ask about another thing. We've dealt with sunscreen here. What about if you're spending a lot of time in the sun or even at the beach the concern of dehydration?
AUBREY: You know, technically you're really not dehydrated 'til you lose about two percent of your body weight. Now for us, that's going to take some time. So for small children, that happens a lot more quickly. For athletes it can happen more quickly. And I talked to a pediatrician at Stanford, Chris Longhurst, and he said this is the question that he gets from parents a lot.
Dr. CHRIS LONGHURST (Stanford): That by the time a child feels thirsty, is he or she really already dehydrated. And the answer actually is absolutely, yes.
AUBREY: So the idea here is that kids need to be drinking a lot. For athletes, the American College of Sports Medicine actually says before you go out for a practice on a hot day, start drinking two hours before you go out. And then when you're on the field, drink about 10 ounces - a little more than a cup -every 15 or 20 minutes.
INSKEEP: So let's talk about what I should drink. Should it just be water, like this bottle of water I've got here? Or is Gatorade ok? Anything else?
AUBREY: Well, you know, we all have this built-in cooling system, so when we sweat all that evaporating perspiration helps us cool down. So, yeah, you've got to replace the fluid somehow, and water is the number one way you want to do that.
You know, with Gatorade there is some evidence that if you do intense workouts - and I'm talking about being out there for more than an hour in the heat -that there can be some benefit to replacing electrolytes, too. But when I talked to Chris Longhurst about it - that's the pediatrician from Stanford - he says the problem with these Gatorades and PowerAdes is that there's just a lot of sugar in them.
INSKEEP: Ok, Allison. So let's remind people. We're out in this beautiful park. It's a beautiful sunny day. We've got our sunscreen. We've got our water. And what about bugs?
AUBREY: Have you noticed that when you're outside in the summer some people seem to be bitten by mosquitoes from head to toe? Other people aren't bothered at all?
AUBREY: Well, actually this effect is real. I talked to researcher - his name is Ulrich Bernier and the USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture - and he says that some people are more attractive to mosquitoes.
Mr. ULRICH BERNIER (U.S. Department of Agriculture): The reason that some people are more attracted to mosquitoes than others has to do with the chemicals that each of these people or each individual's producing. Different people tend to emit chemicals at different levels coming off of their skin. And some of these chemicals that we produce attract mosquitoes to us. And some of these chemicals that we produce actually hide us from mosquitoes.
AUBREY: So he went on to explain this has to do with your diet. Also exercise can make a difference. For instance, when you release lactic acid after you exercise that seems to attract mosquitoes.
INSKEEP: Wait a minute, if you exercise more, you get bitten more?
AUBREY: Well, here's the deal. The research is sort of at a halt because they can't find precisely what are the mix of these different chemicals that are going to attract and repel.
INSKEEP: So bug bites are annoying for those of us who are tasty to the bugs, but are they actually dangerous?
AUBREY: Well, do you remember West Nile virus?
INSKEEP: I remember the stories about it, yeah.
AUBREY: Well it's not in the headlines now, but it's still here and it's still real. I talked with Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez. She's from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. EMILY ZIELINSKI-GUTIERREZ (Behavioral Scientist, CDC): West Nile virus has not disappeared. In fact, in 2008, we saw over 1,300 human cases reported to CDC, and we know that that was only a fraction of the cases that occurred. We did have 44 fatalities. And if you think of each of those as preventable -that's really important - that can pretty much ruin your summer. That's worth balancing out with a couple of minutes to put insect repellant on when you go outdoors.
AUBREY: Most people I know are going to contract a virus than being bitten by a mosquito, but you'd probably rather be safe than sorry.
INSKEEP: Some people trying to be safe will have the same question that they have about sunscreen: Are there some that work, some repellants, bug repellants that work and others that don't?
AUBREY: The CDC has given its nod to three types of repellants in addition to DEET. There's the Avon products that are called Skin So Soft Bug Guard. That's got a chemical in it called IR3535. That's effective. There's also a Picaridin products. One of the products that contain Picaridin is called Cutter Advanced. There's also an ingredient derived from lemon eucalyptus oil, a product called Repel Pump Spray has got this in it. And Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez says it's maybe kind of a pungent smell. She said with any of these products, you want to test on your skin first before applying it to your entire body.
INSKEEP: Alison Aubrey, since we are out here on a sunny day, I just want to mention you've got a lovely, very stylish pair of sunglasses on. What should I look for in a pair of sunglasses in this…
AUBREY: You know, probably not these. If you take a look at these, nowhere on there do you see anything about UVA or UVB protections.
INSKEEP: But they're very pretty. They wrap around the face. They've got some kind of a wing on the side. I mean, isn't this everything you should ever want from sunglasses?
AUBREY: I'm glad they get your nod as a fashion statement, but you know what? There's a couple of things to look for in sunglasses. Some sunglasses are made of polycarbonate, and that's just the material that does filter out 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Other sunglasses like these, plastic ones, they could be dipped in a chemical to cut the UVA, UVB radiation. That would make them effective. I actually talked to Dr. Wayne Bizer. He's an ophthalmologist from Florida, and he says it's important to know whether your glasses have this UV ray block.
If they don't, he explains what happens is when you go out on a bright day, the sunglasses may be filtering out all this visible light so you're not squinting, and so the eye senses it's still dark, and then your pupils start to open up a bit.
INSKEEP: You can get hurt worse?
AUBREY: That's what he says. Here he is.
Dr. WAYNE BIZER (Ophthalmologist): A cheap pair of sunglasses can diminish the amount of visible light that enters the eye, fooling the eye, which allows the pupil to dilate a little bit. If there's no UVA and UVB protection in that lens, then what's happening is you're allowing more UVA and UVB to enter the inside of the eye.
INSKEEP: Alison, there are times when I'm looking at a rack of sunglasses and I see those little stickers saying there's the UV protection on there. I wonder if I should even believe those.
AUBREY: I asked Bizer about this. I said there is some kind of seal of approval that we can trust? And unfortunately, the answer is no.
INSKEEP: So in the end, we're just going to have to take a chance and go out in the sun.
AUBREY: You know, life is risky.
INSKEEP: Alison Aubrey, thanks for getting me out to the park here today.
AUBREY: I am so glad you came out here with me, Steve. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
With summer weather rolling in, many people are warming up the grill, but it's important to keep yourself protected from summer's strong sun and insect populations.
Ah ... summer. It's here. If you want the sun without the sunburn, and the great outdoors without the bug bites or worrying about dehydration, then you have to plan ahead. Here are our tips:
The bottom line is that covering up our skin and eyes with sunscreen and sunglasses helps protect us from damaging UV radiation. And spraying on some repellent can protect us against annoying — and sometimes dangerous — mosquito bites.
I'm not your mom. I won't lecture. But you should know that a broad-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection can keep those wrinkles at bay and prevent damage to the skin cells.
Both UVA and UVB are types of ultraviolet radiation that can damage skin.
UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburn, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and the sunburn protection factor, or SPF, ratings indicate how much protection the sunscreen offers against UVB rays. Experts recommend using a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher and reapplying every two hours, as all sunscreens wear off eventually.
But researchers now know that UVA radiation can damage skin as well, and it actually penetrates the skin more than UVB. The FDA has proposed a four-star system — that would be prominently displayed on sunscreen bottles near the SPF rating — to inform consumers how well a sunscreen protects against UVA. It has not been finalized, but an FDA spokesperson says the agency hopes to complete the four-star labeling system by the end of 2009.
Most People Don't Apply Enough
If you want the full protection of an SPF 30 sunscreen, make sure you are applying enough of it. Experts say one ounce — about a shot glass full — will keep you covered. You need to apply it 30 minutes before going in the sun.
And, if you do get burned, some remedies include applying a cool, wet washcloth and using 100 percent aloe vera gel.
Zinc Oxide, Without The White Lifeguard Nose
Many zinc oxide sunblocks now include tiny particles of the sun-blocking ingredients. The result: They no longer cover the face in a white paste; they go on clear.
"Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are sunscreen ingredients that provide broad-spectrum protection," says Anna Bruckner, a dermatologist at Stanford University. And, she says, they can be less irritating than chemical sunscreens.
Protecting Your Eyes
It's not just our skin that needs protection. A good pair of sunglasses can protect our eyes from damaging UV radiation. Experts say excessive exposure to UVA and UVB rays can contribute to the development of cataracts, a major cause of vision loss.
When buying sunglasses, look for a sticker that indicates they have a UV coating, says ophthalmologist Wayne Bizer. This label means the manufacturer has added a clear UV coating to protect the eyes. Don't be fooled into thinking that dark lenses alone block all of the UV radiation, he says.
If you're fishing or boating, polarized lenses are a good choice because they reflect glare from the water. Polarized lenses do not block ultraviolet rays, so Bizer says to look for a pair that also adds a UV coating.
Another option that offers excellent protection against ultraviolet light is polycarbonate lenses, which are crafted from a special material. Glasses made with polycarbonate lenses block 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Beat The Heat With Water
Don't wait until you are thirsty to hydrate. In the summer heat, it's smart to drink early and often, especially when outdoor plans include kids and a lot of physical activity.
Technically, dehydration sets in when a person has lost 2 percent of his or her body weight. Because that can happen more quickly in small children, pediatrician Chris Longhurst says it is good to plan ahead.
By the time kids feel thirsty, he says, they are probably already dehydrated.
And for athlete or sports camps, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes drink 16 ounces of fluids — two full glasses — a couple of hours before starting practice or exercise.
What About Sports Drinks Or Caffeine?
"Water is the mainstay of rehydration," Longhurst says. Most sports drinks contain a lot of sugar, which can slow the uptake of fluids.
There is much debate about the diuretic effect of caffeine, says Doug Casa of the University of Connecticut, but a cup of coffee won't stand in the way of hydration.
If you drank one liter of water, he says, you'd probably retain 800 milliliters or so. Whereas, if you drink a caffeinated beverage, "you might retain, say, 700 milliliters of it and maybe lose 300 to urine," he says.
The net effect is that you're still getting most of the extra fluid you need — even if it's a little less with coffee, tea or caffeinated energy drinks.
It's not just the sun that is stronger in the summer. In many places, mosquitoes also come out in full force. Here are a few ways to keep the pesky, buzzing bugs at bay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not endorse name brands, but it has green-lighted four types of repellents that typically provide long-lasting protection from mosquito bites.
-- Introduced more than 60 years ago, DEET-based products are widely available and extremely effective.
-- A chemical compound called Picaridin is a relative newcomer. It is the active ingredient in a line of Cutter repellents and has been shown in peer-reviewed scientific studies to be effective.
-- IR3535 is the chemical compound used in a line of Avon products called Skin So Soft Bug Guard.
-- The oil of lemon eucalyptus, or PMD — a synthesized version of the oil — is also an effective repellent, according to the CDC. However, studies show that repellents containing this ingredient will wear off and lose effectiveness faster than DEET products.
In general, according to the CDC, the higher the concentration of the active ingredient, the longer the protection will hold up. Products containing less than 10 percent of an active ingredient may only provide one to two hours of protection.