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Question: I’m getting married this summer and want to be tan in my wedding photos and on my honeymoon. Will visiting the tanning salon a few times decrease my chances of getting a sunburn if I get a base tan? Also, aren’t tanning salons safer than laying out in the sun?

Answer: You’d be surprised how often these questions are asked! The short answer is NO and NO! Any type of tan is a sign of skin damage. A tan is the skin’s response to UV damage to the skin’s DNA. The skin darkens to prevent more damage, but your risk of skin cancer is already increased. There is no such thing as a “safe” or “healthy” tan.

Tanning beds deliver concentrated levels of UVA and UVB radiation, both of which cause cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. UVA radiation also penetrates deeper into the skin and causes irreversible skin aging like loss of elasticity, wrinkles and brown spots.

If you want to look tan in your wedding photos, try a sunless tanning cream or lotion. You can still get the glow you want without any of the skin damage.

As far as your honeymoon, take plenty of sunscreen with you. Look for a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (blocking both UVA and UVB), and water-resistant. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors, and to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or immediately after getting wet (for example, after getting out of a pool). Forgetting to reapply sunscreen throughout the day is the one step that most people forget during vacation and that leads to sunburns. Sunscreen only maintains its listed SPF for approximately 90 minutes, after which point the SPF starts to decrease and the sunscreen starts to lose its ability to block ultraviolet light. Shade and clothing can also help protect you from UV rays. Wear protective UV-blocking sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats and tightly-woven clothes and seek shade when possible. Getting into the habit of protecting yourself from UV rays is as simple as the steps above and will allow you to enjoy the outdoors without damaging your skin.

This article was originally published on May 18, 2015, and was updated on April 12, 2017.

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It’s that time of the year when runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats start. It is allergy season. For many people, when spring starts and trees and grass grow they start getting allergy symptoms. Allergies can happen all year, though.

Common environmental allergies can be due to dust mites, animals, pollen, grass and trees, just to name a few. Each of these allergies can happen more often in different times of the year. Grass and trees are often bothersome to people in spring, whereas pollens are in the late summer. Dust mite allergies can be found all year round.

When symptoms are bad, many people turn to medications for help. There are some things you can try prior to using medications. For example, for dust mite allergies you can try using dust mite covers on your pillow and bed. Staying in air conditioning may help symptoms when the pollen count is high. You can also flush out the allergens by using a netti pot or saline eye drops.

Medications that can be helpful include decongestants and antihistamines. Decongestants help relieve nasal congestion symptoms once they have started. Antihistamines block the histamine reaction and help prevent symptoms from happening. They often have to be taken several days to weeks prior to exposure to the allergens. Nasal steroids can also help decrease nasal congestion symptoms and work right at the source of the congestion. There are allergy eye drops that help with itchy, watery eyes too.

If you are having allergy symptoms that are not improving with over the counter medication, it is time to see your primary care doctor to discuss your symptoms. There may be another reason for your symptoms or other medication or treatments to consider. Allergy testing may also be needed to figure out what specifically you are allergic to so that you can avoid the allergen.

This article was originally published on March 20, 2015, and was updated on April 10, 2017.

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Question: My wife and I are expecting our first child. My primary care physician suggested we get our vaccinations updated prior to the baby arriving and make sure our families are vaccinated as well. We were both vaccinated as kids. What type of immunizations should we be planning for?

Answer: Congratulations on your first baby! There are a few vaccinations that are important for your wife to get during pregnancy, because they will also protect your child before he can get his own vaccines. The vaccines are important for you and any close family members who will be frequently around the baby to get as well. Even if you were immunized as a child, you may be due for a booster because immunities can fade over time, or if a vaccination wasn’t available when you were young.

These are the vaccinations that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend for both parents and other family members.

THE FLU VACCINE

The flu vaccine protects against three strains of influenza virus. The CDC recommends that everyone, every year, get a flu vaccine. It’s especially important for pregnant women to get because the immunity can be passed through to the fetus, helping protect the baby when it’s less than 6 months and too young to get the vaccine. It’s also important that anyone who lives with or cares for babies less than 6 months gets the vaccine.

THE CHICKEN POX VACCINE

Chicken pox tends to be a more serious illness in adults than in children. If a woman catches chicken pox while pregnant, she could get really sick. There’s also a small chance it could affect the fetus. The vaccine is the best way to prevent chicken pox. If you’re not immune (if you’ve never had it or been vaccinated), you should get the vaccine. Pregnant women who are unsure of their immunity should be tested and will be given the first dose right after giving birth.

THE TDAP VACCINE

The CDC recommends the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) for all adults; women should get it during each pregnancy. Anyone with regular contact with babies under a year of age should get a Tdap shot as soon as possible (at least two weeks prior to contact is recommended). Pertussis can be life-threatening for babies, and they’re most likely to catch it from a family member. It’s highly contagious and causes severe coughing attacks that can last for months.

THE HEPATITIS A VACCINE

Hepatitis A is prevalent in many parts of the world. It causes jaundice, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms that can be severe. The CDC recommends anyone adopting or caring for a child from a country outside of the US, Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada or Japan should be vaccinated.

THE MMR VACCINE

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Anyone born after 1956 that hasn’t gotten the vaccine, or hasn’t had a positive result on a blood test for rubella immunity should be vaccinated. If you’re pregnant, you’ll have to wait until after the baby is born to get the shot. Some adults, not all, are immune to German measles. However, if it is contracted during pregnancy, you could miscarry or give birth to a child with serious birth defects.

If you have questions about these vaccines, please contact your primary care physician. They should have your immunization records and will work with you and your wife on your specific needs and testing for immunities.

This article was originally published on September 22, 2014, and was updated on March 28, 2017.