Preventing and Treating Sunburn


Anuja Pradhan

In most of the Northern Hemisphere, summer is here and that means it is time to go outside. Whether you are planning a safari holiday to Kenya or just a local hike, you will need to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. While a sunburn may just seem like a temporary irritation, getting sunburnt can not only put a damper on your travel plans, but it can also cause long-lasting damage.

As a former lifeguard and swim instructor, I spent countless hours in the sun, especially during the hottest times of the day. Under these conditions, I had to be especially diligent about protecting my skin, as I could not afford to miss a day of work or damage my skin. Here are some tips to protect your skin when you’re outside. Remember sunscreen and sun gear is cheaper than skin cancer treatments!

Preventing Sunburn

  • Avoid the sun, especially the midday sun.
  • Wear a hat and protective gear. Round hats are better than caps as they cover more of your body and your ears. Ears are often neglected when it comes to sun protection and are the third most-frequent location for skin cancer according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing, especially with sun-protective fabric.
  • Apply sunblock SPF 30 (the higher SPFs have nominal higher coverage) and broad-band protection (UVA/UVB) 30 minutes before going outside. I like to apply sunscreen while I am getting dressed so I get sunscreen over my entire body and so I don't get lazy when I am out in the sun. There have been so many times that I feel just so hot that I want to jump in the pool or in the ocean before putting on my sunscreen properly, so it’s best to do it in advance. This also ensures the sunscreen has time to soak in.
  • Reapply sunblock every few hours, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Pay attention to your skin and get out of the sun if you see redness or feel irritation.

Treating Sunburn

  • Get out of the sun and the heat.
  • Drink lots of fluids especially water.
  • Cool down with cold, wet clothes or a cool bath.
  • Apply moisturizer and make sure it is a light one. My lifeguard friends use refrigerated aloe vera gel because it not only soothes and moisturises, but also cools on contact.
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends taking ibuprofen to prevent the swelling of a burn.
  • Survey the burn, if the burn is bubbling or more severe you may want to seek medical attention.

Stay safe and protect yourself while being active and stay tuned for more adventure travel tips!

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