Travelers spending time outdoors are exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, even on cloudy days. Travelers are at increased risk when traveling near the equator, during summer months, and at high altitudes. Reflection from the snow, sand, and water increases exposure, so consider sun safety during outdoor activities, including snow skiing, spending time at the beach, swimming, and sailing.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours (10 am to 4 pm).
- Wear clothing to protect exposed skin.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen (expand/collapse).
- Use SPF 15 or higher.
- Look for “blocks UVA and UVB” or “broad spectrum” on the label.
- Apply liberally (minimum of 1 oz) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
- Apply to all exposed skin. Remember to apply to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands.
- Reapply at least every 2 hours and each time you get out of the water or sweat heavily.
- If you are also using bug spray, apply sunscreen first and bug spray second. Sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often.
- Throw away sunscreens after 1–2 years.
- Avoid indoor tanning. Getting a “base tan” before your vacation does damage to your skin and doesn’t protect you from sun exposure on your trip.
Treating a Sunburn
Take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache, and fever. Drink plenty of water, and soothe burns with cool baths or by gently applying cool, wet cloths.
Use a topical moisturizing cream or aloe to provide additional relief. Don’t go back into the sun until the burn has healed.
If skin blisters, lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection. Don’t break blisters (this slows healing and increases risk of infection). Apply antiseptic ointment if blisters break.
Seek medical attention if any of the following occurs:
- Severe sunburn, especially if it covers more than 15% of the body.
- Dehydration (see “Travel to Hot Climates”).
- High fever (above 101°F).
- Extreme pain that lasts more than 48 hours.