It’s that time of year of again! The sun is out, the children are playing and everyone is happy. Until you get a sunburn. Or heat exhaustion. Then no one is happy.
Here are some ways to avoid having to deal with the unfortunate results of being in the sun too long, and how to deal with the results if you fail that attempt.
There are lots of ways that you can avoid getting the full extent of the suns rays on you and your children’s skin. By following these simple ideas, you can prevent a lot of headaches and pain for you and you children, because, let’s be honest. No one wants to parent when dealing with painful sunburns and heat exhaustion, and no one wants children suffering from those ailments either.
Hats. It sounds simple, but by covering your head, you reduce the amount of sun that hits your face, and, obviously, your head. You can also put sunglasses on your children if you can keep them on. Also try to keep your children covered. Use swim shirts with boys swim trunks and one piece swim suits with girls when they go swimming. Reduced skin showing means less surface area for sunburns!
Make sure you sunscreen up!! This is super important, especially for your children. Use the children’s SPF 60 for your children and 30 for yourself. No one wants to have skin cancer. Don’t worry about getting a tan. If you get cancer, you REALLY can’t tan, so use a higher SPF and let your tan take a little longer to come in. My dad, who loves going out in the sun, found out two years ago that he had melanoma (skin cancer) on his face. They had to take out a huge swatch of skin and it was a really scary time for the whole family. I’m happy to say he has been cancer free for two years now, but if you can avoid the stress by using sunscreen, I recommend doing it.
Be Wary of Water
When it’s hot out, everyone is drawn to the refreshing and fun water venues. It’s a great idea, and LOTS of fun for the kids! I highly recommend it. BUT. Remember that sunscreen comes off in the water, so be sure to reapply it every couple of hours! It’s also important to remember that water refracts sunlight, so if you don’t reapply that sunscreen, you are going to have an even worse burn.
Time Your Day Appropriately
The heat of the day is usually between 12 and 2 o’clock in afternoon (approximately). If you want to go outside during the day, I recommend doing something in the morning or late afternoon. That way, on really hot days, you aren’t in the direct sun. Find a cool place, eat lunch, have an ice cream, take a nap, but try to stay out of the sun.
If it’s hot out, you are going to sweat. Make sure you have LOTS of water, and you make sure your children are drinking lots of fluids. You need to replace the water in your body you are loosing. If you don’t, this leads to heat exhaustion, and if you REALLY aren’t careful, heat stroke. So drink lots of water.
Side Effects of the Sun
Despite our best efforts, sometimes we slip up and get a sun burn. One time, I put on sunscreen and forgot to do the back of my legs. I couldn’t sit down for a week. Hopefully all we get is a minor sunburn, but here are some other ailments caused by the sun, and how to deal with them.
This is a common occurrence during the whole year. I distinctly remember the story of my mother getting second degree sunburns when she was skiing one time. (The sun reflected off the snow to give her major sunburns on her face. Not. Fun.) Sunburns are caused by overexposure to UV radiation. Most commonly seen by slight redness on skin which can be very mild or quite severe. It is good to note that it is very common to feel fatigued, tired, slightly dizzy, and nauseous after getting a sunburn. People commonly equate these feelings with sun stroke when really it is just a side effect of getting a bad sun burn.
The most important thing is to prevent sunburns. So make sure to apply lots of sunscreen or cover up with clothes or a sun umbrella. For treating sunburn you can use Ibuprofen (advil, or motrin) as it can reduce redness and help with pain, but it will not get rid of the burn. In addition, you can lather on the Aloe vera cooling gel (it’s wonderful with lidocaine in it! One of my favorite things ever.) and cooling the area with cool clothes are best for relieving that burn. Hopefully it will turn into a tan!
This is the first of three stages in heat illnesses. Heat cramps are what happens to your body when it is very dehydrated. Your muscles will start cramping. Most typically you will feel it in your abdomen, calves, and arms. When your body gets hot, it is hot tends to sweat a lot more in order to keep you cool. In doing this, it depletes your body of fluids and electrolytes. These cramps can last a long time after treating them, so STAY HYDRATED!
Typical treatment of heat cramps involves resting in a cool area, drinking an electrolyte rich drink (juice, sports drinks, or pedialyte) and slowly stretch cramping areas after re hydration. It is important to not resume any strenuous activities as this may cause a recurrence of the cramps
This is the second of three stages in heat illnesses. Heat exhaustion is seen by most often by having faintness, dizzyness, fatigue, nausea, headache, heavy sweating, cool goose pimpled skin. This is your body’s natural reaction to being over heated. If it is not treated promptly, it can result in heat stroke.
The treatment for heat exhaustion is very similar to heat cramps. Move to a cool place, drink electrolyte fluids, and stop all activity and rest. Now, the exception being, if your symptoms do not improve or they get worse after one hour of trying to cool down and re hydrating, you should go to the nearest emergency department.
This is the last of the three stages of heat illness. People often state that they have had heat stroke or sun stroke before, but they most likely just had the side effects of sunburn or they may have been close to heat exhaustion. Heat stroke is a very serious medical condition which requires immediate medical treatment as this is a life threatening condition. Heat stroke is when the body overheats, usually, as a result of doing strenuous activities in a hot environment. If not immediately treated there can be damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles, as your body basically cooks from the inside. In order for this to happen you have to be outside in VERY hot heat for a LONG period of time. Common symptoms are altered behavior or mental state or level of consciousness, and your whole body may become flushed and red,. You also see rapid breathing and racing heart rate. If not treated quick enough, heat stroke can lead to death.
If you think someone is suffering from heat stroke get them immediately to the nearest emergency facility. CALL 911. Get the person in cool place and cool them down by any means. Spray with a water hose, put in a cold bath or shower, spray them with cold water and place a fan over them, pack armpits and groins with Ice, put a cold wet towel over their head.
So, moral of the story? Sunscreen and water are your best friends this summer. Enjoy the sun, but remember to limit your time in it. That way, you don’t have to deal with any pain after a wonderful day in the hot sun. Special thanks to my wonderful husband who helps me with these nurse knowledge articles! I would not be able to write them without his expertise.