Ask Dr. Pat

Dr. Pat Consults: Preventing the Perils of Summer

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

In addition to good weather, beach days and fun, summer unfortunately also brings hazards into our lives.

I have asked three members of the WVFC Medical Advisory Board for their advice to help all of us have a safer summer. Dr. Anetta Reszko discusses what causes acute sunburn, how to avoid it and the consequences of sunburn. Dr. Jason Kendler provides information on tick-borne illnesses and Dr. Baxter Allen covers the risks of trauma from boating, swimming and cycling and how to avoid these accidents. Preparation and knowledge lead to prevention. And an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!  Here are the suggestions from our medical experts about how to have a happy and safe summer. 

Editor’s Note: Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen is a collaborative physician who writes a weekly “Medical Monday” column for Women’s Voices for Change.  (Search our archives for her posts, calling on the expertise of medical specialists, on topics from angiography to vulvar melanoma.)


Anetta Reszko, M.D.

Sunburn, is a form of radiation burn that results from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. In addition to skin redness and warmth, severe sunburn may be associated with pain, general fatigue and dizziness. Frequent sunburns and excessive UV radiation cause direct DNA damage and are the primary causes of skin aging, contributing to the development of skin cancers.

The risk of getting a sunburn depends on several factors including:

  1.  Skin type: People with lighter skin, blue eyes and light/red hair are less likely to tan and more likely to develop sunburn.
  2. Time of day: Avoid direct sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  3. Season: The sun is closest to the earth in late spring and early summer and that may contribute to a more severe sunburn.
  4. Geographic location: Tropical sites that are closer to the equator have more direct sunlight passing through the atmosphere over the course of a year compared to northern sites.
  5. Altitude: Sunburns are more common at a higher altitude because there is less of the earth’s atmosphere to block the sunlight.
  6. Exposure to reflective surfaces (water, sand, snow, ice): Reflected sun rays can cause severe sunburns.
  7. Presence of overcast/cloud coverage: UV is at least partly blocked by clouds but even on an overcast day, a significant percentage of the sun’s damaging UV radiation can pass through clouds.  Don’t forget to wear your sun block even on a cloudy day. 

Next Page: Lyme Disease

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Diane Dettmann July 6, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks so much, Dr. Pat for the helpful reminders. Living in rural Minnesota, deer ticks are a daily concern when working in the garden or walking in the woods. Knowing what to watch for really helps!

  • Roz Warren July 6, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Terrific advice! Thanks.