Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Surprise! Some suncreens can cause burns

If you’re a conscientious parent, you make sure your whole family is well coated with sunscreen before heading outdoors all year round. What you may not know is that if you apply certain sunscreen sprays and then come close to a source of flame — such as a barbecue grill or even a citronella candle — you may risk the sunscreen catching fire, causing a serious burn.

The Food and Drug Administration has become aware of at least five separate incidents in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flame suffered significant burns that required medical treatment.

The specific products reported to have been used in these cases were recalled, however many other sunscreen sprays contain flammable ingredients, most commonly alcohol. The same is true for other spray products such as hairspray and insect repellents. Even some non-spray sunscreens may contain flammable ingredients.

Many flammable products have label warnings against use near an open flame. Heed that warning. But be conscious of how you use those products in general.

Interestingly, in the five incidents reported to FDA, the burns occurred after the sunscreen spray had been applied. The ignition sources were varied and involved lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a lit citronella candle, even approaching a grill. These incidents suggest there is a possibility of catching fire if you are near an open flame or a spark after applying a flammable sunscreen — even if you believe you have waited a sufficient time for the sunscreen to dry.

“Based on this information, we recommend that after you have applied a sunscreen spray labeled as flammable, you consider avoiding being near an open flame, sparks or an ignition source,” says Narayan Nair, M.D., a lead medical officer at FDA.

No children were involved in the reported burn incidents involving sunscreen sprays. However, keeping children safe near flammable materials is very important because burns have the potential to be more severe in children compared to adults.

When you choose a sunscreen, think about where you’ll be using it. If you’ll be anywhere near a flame source, avoid any product with a flammability warning and choose another non-flammable sunscreen instead. This is particularly important when it comes to choosing a product for children since they are frequently active and may get near a flame source.

While applying and wearing sunscreen products labeled as flammable, do not smoke, and avoid open flames from lighting cigarettes, lit cigarettes, grilling, candles or sparking materials.

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