Sun Safety and IBD

Do you have plans to spend time at the beach or doing other outdoor activities in the sun this summer?

Skin disorders are the second most common complication that occur outside of the intestines in those with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, affecting up to 20 percent of people with IBD. 

If you are an IBD patient planning to bask in the sun, here are five tips to help keep your skin healthy this summer:

  1. Use sunscreen and reapply often!
    You should wear sunscreen daily but be especially diligent in applying it when you are spending time outdoors. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher is ideal to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied every two hours and immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a significant amount.
  2. Cover up – the more, the better.
    Wear appropriate clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Clothing protects us by absorbing or blocking much of the sun’s radiation. Cover as much skin as you can with clothing made of bright- or dark-colored, tightly woven fabrics and wear a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  3. Seek shade.
    While shade will not protect you 100 percent from UV rays, it is an important aspect of sun protection. Areas of deep shade (where you cannot see the sky and no UV rays penetrate) offer complete protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Ideal spaces for shade include trees with large spreads of dense foliage, trees near other trees or buildings, and shade structures with side protection and/or surrounded by other structures.
  4. Talk to your doctor about your risk for photosensitivity.
    Photosensitivity is inflammation of the skin induced by the combination of sunlight and certain medications. It is important to talk to your doctor to find out whether or not any of the medications you are on to treat your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis could cause photosensitivity.
  5. Schedule your annual skin check.
    You should examine your skin head-to-toe once a month for new spots or growths. This will help you spot anything abnormal looking but does not replace a check by your physician. Make sure you schedule a skin check with a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam.

For further information, call Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's IBD Help Center: 888.MY.GUT.PAIN (888.694.8872).

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation provides information for educational purposes only. We encourage you to review this educational material with your health care professional. The Foundation does not provide medical or other health care opinions or services. The inclusion of another organization's resources or referral to another organization does not represent an endorsement of a particular individual, group, company or product.

About this resource

Published: June 6, 2016

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