Summer is here and with it comes the inevitable sunburn. If you are like me, you brush off the sunscreen like a dumbass, regret your bravado a few hours after the sunset and then get no sympathy from your loved ones as you slather yourself in aloe and sleep awkwardly trying to find a position that doesn’t feel like your skin is ablaze. But now that you’re a Dad you need to put the ego in check. It’s high time you start carrying sunscreen with you EVERYWHERE for your kids sake and for yourself. As a responsible parent, you owe it to them (plus you need to stick around to embarrass them properly in front of their first date). For obvious reasons the ozone layer is slowly depleting and getting burned is much easier to accomplish (that’s kind of an oxymoron) than it was; so don’t let your dated perception of when it’s needed fool you.
In recent decades, the incidence and severity of sunburn has increased worldwide, partly because of chemical damage to the atmosphere’s ozone layer. Between the 1970s and the 2000s, average stratospheric ozone decreased by approximately 4%, contributing an approximate 4% increase to the average UV intensity at the earth’s surface. Ozone depletion and the seasonal “ozone hole” have led to much larger changes in some locations, especially in the southern hemisphere.
So get your shit together Dads!
Toss some spray in the backpack or grab some handy sunblock wipes. We needn’t remind you that UV rays are harmful even when the sun is hiding behind the clouds.
But in case you #FAIL (and we all do from time to time), here are some remedies to help your kids.
1. Cool compresses or baths. Since sunburn raises the skin temperature, the first way to soothe sunburn is to cool down the affected area. A cold compress or washcloth on the area can help; so can a cool shower or bath, says Mia Finkelston, M.D., a board-certified family practitioner who specializes in dermatology at the online health consultation site LiveHealthOnline.com. The big mistake parents make? “They underestimate the amount of time to do this — some studies show that 20 minutes at a minimum and up to three hours of cool water exposure is best,” says Finkelston. And while applying an ice pack might seem ideal, that’s actually too cold and can injure the tissue further.
2. Aloe vera. This common houseplant can soothe a child’s sunburn by acting as a topical anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling and cooling the area. Just cut off a leaf, squeeze out the liquid, and apply to the sunburnt area. Or if you have aloe vera as an ointment, “it can be refrigerated or kept in a cooler and will also offer an ice pack-type of feeling to red or even pink skin,” says Finkelston.
3. Moisturizer. “Sunburn dries the skin, and UV radiation depletes the skin of antioxidants,” says Finkelston. “This causes peroxidation, which reduces the lipids or fats in the skin.” The best remedy? “After cooling, keep burned skin as moist as possible using a moisturizer with vitamin A or E,” she says. Noxzema, which was formulated for sunburn, cools and soothes as well as moisturizes and is a particularly good product to have handy. Added bonus: Moisturizer will help keep the skin from peeling. Just make sure it’s not oil-based, since oils hold in heat (using butter on a burn is an old wives’ tale that will only make matters worse).
4. Ibuprofen/Naprosyn. “These medications have been proven to minimize sunburn as well as provide an anti-inflammatory effect in your skin,” says Finkelston. Use them regularly for up to 48 hours after the burn occurs. “These should be used even if you think your kids had too much sun exposure for the day and don’t necessarily see a sunburn,” she adds. “There is some evidence that this medication may even help prevent the long-term effects of sun damage like melanoma.”
5. Beverages. “When we burn, the skin sucks fluids to the surface to help cool it down and to help minimize the burn,” explains Finkelston. “This means that fluids are taken away from our internal organs.” So be sure your kids hydrate thoroughly. “After a day in the sun that results in a burn, I would continue to drink water or the like every 20 minutes until bedtime,” she says. “Just be sure to have a clear path to the bathroom so they don’t trip.”
Note: Serious burns — meaning those with blisters — may require oral steroids and possible antibiotics. Consult your doctor if you see symptoms along these lines.
Lather those kids up and enjoy the SUMMER!