Sun Exposure

Sun exposure can affect travelers in nearly any setting. All travelers should take the following steps to ensure that they protect themselves while engaging in outdoor activities.

We recommend following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tips to protect against Sun Exposure.

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.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.
  • Avoid indoor tanning. Getting a “base tan” before you travel damages your skin and doesn’t protect you from sun exposure.

Use sunscreen

  • A minimum of SPF 15 or higher is recommended.
  • Look for “blocks UVA and UVB” or “broad spectrum” on the label.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally (minimum of 1 ounce) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Apply sunscreen 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 insect repellent, apply sunscreen first and repellent second. Sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often.
  • Throw away sunscreens after 1–2 years.

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 an aloe solution 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 (that would slow healing and increase risk of infection). Apply antiseptic ointment to the blisters if they break.

Seek medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • 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 lasting more than 48 hours.