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Melissa Arca

Dr. Mom: Sunburn danger for moms, too

Published: Thursday, Jul. 5, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1D
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 - 8:10 pm

Few things are worse than getting a sunburn on your second day of vacation. A total sunscreen fail. It ranks right up there with your children fighting over who gets to press the elevator buttons (every single time) as one of the unpleasant aspects of vacation.

But still, it's vacation, and as my husband so astutely assessed, "your worst day of vacation is better than any other day."

So true. I knew I married him for a good reason.

Well, I had a sunscreen fail on our most recent vacation. I was so diligent with the children, lubing them up with copious amounts of sunscreen before heading out to the beach or the pool. I endured the moments of squirmy protests and melodramatic holding of their breaths while I made sure their cheeks, noses, and ears were adequately protected.

Then we headed out for a day at the pool. Problem was, I completely forgot to protect my own skin.

And I paid the price. Sunburn on our second day of vacation.


I spend a lot of time advising parents about sunburn prevention in their children. I remind them to think about the whole sun- protection package: light clothing that covers arms and legs if possible, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and shade. I tell them that even one blistering sunburn during childhood could more than double their chances of melanoma in the future.

And then I forgot myself, something I think many of us parents can relate to. We often put ourselves on the back burner and we end up getting burned.

So here are some friendly reminders on sunburn treatment and prevention for the whole family.

Yes, this means you too, Mom.


You may not realize the extent of your sunburn until six to 12 hours after sun exposure. So don't rely on how you look and feel in the moment. The height of discomfort and severity will be noticeable within the first 24 hours.

Take cool showers and apply cold compresses to relieve pain. Water-based lotions containing aloe will help. Avoid alcohol-based lotions or other medicated creams, as they could exacerbate stinging and inflammation.

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen may be helpful. Don't give aspirin to children, as this has the potential to cause Reye syndrome.

Make sure to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, then drink some more.

Some severe sunburns may blister and cause significant pain. Fever, headaches, and chills may ensue. Any child in this condition should be evaluated by a doctor and certainly any child under 1 year of age with a sunburn should be evaluated, as well.

Peeling of the skin following a sunburn is part of the healing process.


Prevention is key when we're talking about sunburns. Keep the whole sun- protection package in mind by dressing in light cotton clothing when possible, use hats and sunglasses, apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher that has UVA and UVB coverage, seek shade when possible, and know the sun's rays are most powerful between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating excessively, and for every two hours out in the sun.

This is summer, so go out and enjoy time with your family. Bask in vacations, staycations and days spent poolside; just remember the importance of sunburn prevention.

For yourself and for your family.

And while you're at it, take the stairs once in a while.

A little extra cardio minus the elevator squabbles? Definitely a vacation win.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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