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Make a pledge to observe Don't Fry Day

Last Modified: May 24, 2024

Family Medicine

People gathering around food outside

This post was written by Bridget Joseph, APN, and Sara Herstad, DO, Parkview Walk-In Clinic.

With summer approaching, protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is crucial. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated the Friday before Memorial Day as Don't Fry Day to raise awareness about sun safety. Read on for helpful tips to stay safe in the sun while enjoying outdoor fun!

What is a sunburn?

A sunburn results from overexposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds. It can appear as redness, inflammation, blistering and peeling skin. This reaction usually appears within a few hours of exposure and typically lasts 3-7 days. However, repeated sun exposure and sunburns can increase the risk of skin cancer and speed up the skin's aging process, leading to wrinkles, freckles, dark "sun spots" and tiny red veins on the cheeks, nose and ears.

Symptoms and treatment

Skin itching while in the sun could be one of the first signs of sunburn. This reaction is a key indicator that sunscreen should be reapplied or that you should take a break in the shade or indoors. If skin begins to appear burned while still exposed to the sun, it will become much worse in a few hours, and it is time to cover up.

Generally, mild sunburns can be addressed at home by avoiding prolonged sun exposure until redness and discomfort subside. Aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can help with pain and inflammation. Using a cool compress on the sunburn site, aloe-based gels or lotions, and topical numbing sprays like Solarcaine® or Dermoplast® can also help relieve pain.

For severe sunburns, seeking medical attention from a primary care provider is recommended. Severe sunburn can present as:

  • Severe skin pain or tenderness
  • Skin that feels warm or hot to the touch
  • Severe swelling of the affected area
  • Large blisters on the hands, face or genitals

People with severe sunburn can also show symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion. Seek immediate emergency department care if experiencing:

How to apply sunscreen

Sunscreen is recommended for all individuals regardless of skin color and type. The best type is broad-spectrum with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply it 15-30 minutes before sun exposure to establish a good protective film on the skin. If possible, wait 10-20 minutes before putting on clothes after application.

The "teaspoon" rule is a simple way to gauge how much sunscreen to use. Liberally apply:

  • One teaspoon of sunscreen on the face and neck
  • Two teaspoons on the front and back torso
  • One teaspoon on each arm
  • Two teaspoons on each leg

Reapply sunscreen often and after every water exposure, whether swimming or sweating. Check the bottle for the length of protection, then set an alarm to reapply. If swimming, have a family member keep track of time and reapply within the time frame. Take a break while waiting for it to soak in before returning to the water.

In addition to wearing sunscreen, several other practices can help protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Consider these tips before heading outdoors:

  • Parents with infants under 6 months should avoid sunscreen products and use sun-avoidance tactics, such as wearing protective clothing and staying in the shade. If this isn't possible, use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher for sun-exposed skin.
  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are strongest.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun tanning.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes.
  • Cover up with hats and ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) clothing.

A convenient care option for severe sunburn

With the Virtual Walk-in Clinic, you can see a Parkview provider from your smartphone, tablet or computer and receive the same level of care as an in-person visit at a walk-in clinic. Our providers are available to treat and diagnose non-emergency medical issues, and if necessary, prescriptions are sent right to your pharmacy of choice. Virtual Walk-in Clinic video visits are available nationwide 24/7, including holidays and weekends, even if you don’t currently have a Parkview provider.

To get started, log in to your MyChart account and select Virtual Walk-In Clinic from the menu. For the best visit experience, use the free MyChart mobile app, downloadable for Android or Apple devices.


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