Don’t Ruin Your Vacation with Sunburn

Summer vacations are generally filled with beaches, hiking and a great deal of time outdoors sightseeing.  The last thing you want to do is hamper your good times with painful sunburn.  It’s fairly simple to protect yourself, but there are some things you may not have considered when planning your time outdoors.

Everyone knows that sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation.  This causes aging of the skin, cataracts and skin cancer, not to mention short-term damage – sunburn.  Everyone should protect himself or herself when exposed to the sun.  Fair skinned people need to take more precautions, but everyone needs to take care.

Even if you generally don’t burn, be aware that certain medications can make you more sensitive to the sun.  Certain antibiotics, some antidepressants, NSAIDs, sulfa based medications and diuretics cause photosensitivity, making you susceptible to rashes if you spend much time outdoors.

Dress Appropriately

If you’re spending most of the day in the sun – at the beach or doing outdoor activities – try to cover up for part of the day, especially between 10-4 when the sun is strongest.  Many companies make sun protective clothing, and not all of it looks like your mother’s old housecoat. Coolibar and,  and REI both offer a wide variety of SPF clothing.  If you’re looking for something more upscale, Neiman Marcus offers designer SPF attire.

If you don’t want to purchase, or don’t need the added protection of SPF clothing, wear clothing that provides some level of protection.  Dark clothing protects you more than light clothing.  Tight weaves are better than loose weaves.  Hats are important.  A hat with a light color on the outside will reflect UV rays and keep you cooler, but a darker lining under the brim protects your face from reflected UV rays.  If you can see through clothing or a hat, the UV rays can get through it.

Protect your eyes as well.  Not only will you be more comfortable, the sun can damage your eyes.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing sunglasses that block 99% of UVAs.

Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen

Wear sunscreen.  But be sure to wear enough sunscreen.  Most people apply sunscreen with a light touch.  Unfortunately this does not provide you with enough protection.  The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying a shot glass, or two tablespoons of sunscreen.  You should apply a nickel size portion to your face. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours.  Reapply more frequently if you are exposed to water or sweat.

If you are wearing makeup or moisturizer with sunscreen, apply sunscreen as well.  Most women won’t be using the recommended amount when applying makeup.  If you’re spending a lot of time sightseeing outside, consider wearing tinted moisturizer. This allows you to reapply sunscreen without having to redo your makeup.

Don’t make the mistake of missing areas when applying sunscreen.  If you have short hair, or wear it pulled back, be sure to apply sunscreen to the tops of your ears.  The tops of your feet can burn easily, be sure to sunscreen them.  You may want to apply the sunscreen before putting on sandals in order to get better coverage.  Wear lip balm with SPF.  It’s available almost everywhere.

If by chance you do get burned, apply cool compresses and take aspirin or ibuprofen for pain.  If your burn is severe, you may need to see a doctor.  This would be if you have blisters over a large portion of your body and high fever, extreme pain, headache, confusion nausea or chills accompany the burn.  Travel insurance will generally cover this service if you get burned on your vacation.

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