Sunburn Prevention 101


Did you remember to apply  your sunscreen?

Did you remember to apply your sunscreen?

Everybody knows last winter was brutal. The sun goddesses have now emerged in full force exposing bare, unprotected skin.   There is an urgency to rush tans in time for summer vacations and swimsuits.  A rushed tan means too much sun exposure, too quickly.

I just had the joy of spending a day with my 7-year old granddaughter.   I asked her what she wanted to do.

“Mamaw, let’s go to the swimming pool.” She urged.  “It’s a lot of fun.”

She didn’t need to convince me. We found her swimsuit, grabbed the sunscreen and a beach towel and away we went.

Once at the pool, I diligently applied sunscreen to that fair-skinned, blue-eyed little darling. In the course of the 2 hours we were at the pool, I reapplied sunscreen about 3 more times. This grandma definitely did not want to neglect her skin and let her get burned.

I hadn’t planned for a trip to the pool, so I didn’t pack a bathing suit.   As I sat under an poolside umbrella wearing a booney hat and sunglasses, bodies were tanning and scorching all around me.   One body was that of a near-term expectant mother, her belly bared to the sun.

Poolside was adorned with bathing beauties of all shapes, sizes, skin colors and ages. In their rush to get in the water, it was evident Sunburn Prevention 101 was not a priority with many of them.

Some came to the pool with evidence of tanning from many years of sun worship. Others were recently burned and back for another day in the sun. (Nurses don’t miss much when it comes to skin!)

One lady, roughly in her 60’s was already glowing red with a sunburn. She seemed not to notice. At one point, I walked over, commenting that I had noticed her sunburn.   My plan was to offer her some sunscreen before she blistered. She replied “Some things you worry about and some you don’t. I don’t worry about anything.”

“So be it.” I thought to myself as I walked away. Some people are destined to disregard Sunburn Prevention 101 and will suffer later.

Some are fortunate to have darkly pigmented skin with some natural protection.  A multitude of toddlers wearing swimmies were baring skin that had never seen the summer sun. I couldn’t help wondering how many of those fair-skinned little darlings would end up burned as a result.   It is very hard for a nurse whose specialty is skin care to take off her nurse “hat” when skin damage is happening all around.

My grandmother, father, brother and I (all fair-skinned and blue-eyed) have had basal cell skin cancer.   We grew up in an era when people put oil on themselves and never had a thought of sunscreen. We paid the price for the ignorance of our youth.   Thankfully my daughter learned from our family history. My son, who spends most of his time outdoors, still gets the motherly reminders about Sunburn Prevention  101. (Yes, sometimes I even nag!)

While my granddaughter splashed and played, I kept her in sight while visiting with old friends.   Periodically I had her come out so I could reapply sunscreen and have a poolside snack.

Do you know the rules of safe sun exposure?  Check your knowledge.

Remember these Sunburn Prevention  101 tips and don’t ruin your summer activities with sunburn. The damage caused by sunburn may not be realized for years afterward.

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #1

Use sunscreen SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to exposure. Read the labels and apply/reapply it properly. Check expirations dates! No sunscreen protects you completely. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. It is only water resistant. You may need extra protection near the eye areas while swimming because you tend to rub the eye areas frequently to remove water.

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #2

Slip on a shirt or pants. The more skin you cover, the less it’s exposed to harmful sun rays. Dark colors provide more protection than light colors. Tightly woven fabric provides more protection; sheer fabrics allow UV rays to pass through. Some fabrics have light colored, lightweight, and provide UV protection.

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #3

Wear a hat with at least a 2 – 3” brim. Some hats are made with UV protection. Shield your neck and ears too.

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #4

Wear sunglasses that block UV rays. Large frames and wraparound styles protect best. Children need smaller sunglasses with UV protection too!

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #5

Children can burn easily. Cover skin, apply/reapply sunscreen periodically and limit exposure during the high intensity hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunburn Prevention 101 Tip #6

Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #7

You can get sunburned on an overcast, cloudy day! The same tips apply!

Sunburn Prevention  101 Tip #8

Certain medications make you more likely to get sunburned:

  • Antibiotics (Tetracyclines, Sulfa drugs, Antidepressants
  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) e.g. Advil, Motrin (Ibuprofen), Celebrex
  • Diuretics (water or fluid pills)

You might also want to read:  Treating Sunburn

Pam Baker, RN

On a humorous note, I would advise against the Hannah and Kaylee method of self-tanning!  








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