Spring Break Special: Sun Exposure

Posted on March 2, 2011


Anyone in Boston can tell you that the sun has been rare these days; so it is no surprise that most young adults will be heading down to warmer (and sunnier) destinations for this year’s spring break. The pools, beaches, and boardwalks will be packed with men and women trying to come home with a bronzed glow. However, you might notice that a lack of proper protection will result in more burns than tans.


Liz from Pittsburgh describes how the sun turned her spring break upside down:

The worst thing that happened to me was getting sun poisoning in Mexico.  The sun is a lot stronger in places that are not Pittsburgh.  People seem to forget this because we live here, we are constantly shielded by clouds and are never really exposed to the fiery sun.  Take my word for it though -definitely do not go lay out the first day drenched in oil.  I know you want to get tan, but ladies please – be careful!  Not only did I get sunburn, but my skin got swollen and puffed up from the burns!


Kim had a similar experience:

I’ll never forget my last head-to-toe sunburn, three decades ago: I was a pale Michigan college student who overdid the sun on a brief Florida winter break. I was still sizzling when I got off the plane in Detroit. A sleepless night or two later, I felt fine.

But the truth is, my skin may yet pay the price for what skin cancer researchers call “intense intermittent sun exposure.” That’s the kind of exposure that pasty cold-climate office workers and students get when, right about now, they head for sunny shores and golf courses for a few days of blessed warmth.


Not protecting your skin can turn spring break into a nightmare. Precautions should be taken to ensure that you don’t spend the week lying in bed instead of on the beach. Here are some tips from the CDC to minimize sun damage and avoid burning:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun when possible.

  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15.

  • Throw away sunscreens after 1–2 years (they lose potency).

  • Apply liberally (minimum of 1 oz) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

  • Apply to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands.

  • Reapply at least every 2 hours and each time a person gets out of the water or perspires heavily.

  • Wear clothing with a tight weave or high-SPF clothing.

  • Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection and side panels.

  • Take breaks in shaded areas.

Follow these tips to keep you healthy and safe under the sun. If you need more information go to the National Library of Medicine , or call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.