Many lifeguards spend long hours outdoors, often in direct sunlight. While most swimmers can go for a cooling dip in the water or seek a shady place to relax, a lifeguard must remain at their station. Many lifeguards enjoy sunny days at the beach or poolside, but too much sun exposure can have serious consequences. Sunburn is painful and can make you feel sick. Once you have it, it can be challenging and inconvenient to live with.
If you’re an outdoor lifeguard, you can take steps to minimize your risk of getting burned, and there are several ways to relieve already burned and aching skin.
The Dangers of Sunburn
Too much time soaking up the sun’s UV rays can increase your risk for developing melanoma, or skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. If you have a sunburn, it is a sign you did not protect your skin from the sun and UV rays as much as you should have done.
Anyone who has experienced sunburn knows it’s painful, but several other symptoms can manifest after too much time in the sun, such as:
- Small blisters
- Peeling skin
- A tight, dry sensation
- Itchiness as the burn heals
Minor symptoms usually last a few days, but can last longer depending on the burn’s severity. Severe sunburn can also cause you to experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, chills and nausea. If you are experiencing any severe symptoms with your sunburn, or if your blisters show signs of infection, seek prompt medical attention.
Ways Lifeguards Can Protect Themselves From Sunburn
There is no better sunburn treatment than preventing the burn altogether. The following tips are essential for protecting a lifeguard’s skin from burns and UV damage.
- Apply and reapply sunscreen: The most crucial thing you can do to avoid sunburn as a lifeguard is to regularly apply a high-SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen. You should reapply your sunscreen every two hours, or after participating in anything that would make it wear off faster, like excessive sweating, drying off with a towel or swimming.
- Cover up where possible: Another method of skin protection for lifeguards is wearing sleeves, head coverings, shorts or pants. By wearing hats, visors, rashguards, jackets and sweatpants, you limit how much skin gets exposed to the sun. When choosing protective clothes, keep the temperature in mind and do not wear anything that could cause you to get overheated.
- Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses will help you see better in direct sunlight, and they can protect the sensitive area around your eyes from getting burned.
Some people are more susceptible to sunburn than others and should take appropriate preventive measures. Those at a higher risk include people with fair skin, freckles, red or light hair, people who live near the equator or at high altitudes and tanning bed users. Sunburn is most likely to occur when the sun is at its peak between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
What Sunscreen Do Lifeguards Use?
The two most essential factors to consider when selecting a lifeguard sunscreen is whether it is broad-spectrum and what level of SPF if contains. Broad-spectrum describes a formula that protects against both UVA and UVB sun rays. For SPF, experts recommend the best sunscreen for lifeguards is a broad-spectrum formula with at least 30 SPF. Both high and low SPFs wear off in the same amount of time. You should apply a thick, full-coverage layer of your sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Even if a sunscreen claims to be water-resistant, always reapply it regularly and as needed.
Some formulas of lifeguard sunscreens are specifically for the most sensitive parts of your face, like your nose and around your eyes. SPF or sunscreen lip balms can protect your lips from burns and blisters. Depending on your employer, you might be responsible for bringing your sunscreen to work or using sunscreen from a wall dispenser.
What Type of Sunglasses Should Lifeguards Wear?
Sunglasses come in hundreds of unique colors and frame styles, and the best sunglasses for lifeguards are a pair that fit securely against your face without sliding down or digging into your nose or temples. Another critical factor to consider is the type of lens inside the sunglasses. Sunglass lenses are either blue, anti-reflective, photochromic or polarized. Polarized sunglasses are the best fit for lifeguards because they reduce the glare caused by bright light, which the water can amplify.
Sunburn Relief Options for Lifeguards
Although prevention is always best, sometimes sunburn is unavoidable if you forget or are unable to reapply sunscreen regularly. If you have a painful sunburn, gently treat the affected area until it heals.
Some tips for sunburn relief include the following.
- Stay inside: To protect the burned area, stay indoors as often as you can until your skin heals. If you must be outdoors, stay hydrated with cool water and wear light, loose-fitting layers to protect the area from the sun. Sit in the shade, if possible.
- Use gels, creams or aloe vera: Most soothing creams and gels cannot cure sunburn, but they do offer temporary relief from sunburn pain. You can also use the gel of an aloe vera plant to soothe your sunburn naturally, and some studies suggest aloe vera may have burn healing properties. Always be gentle when applying creams and gels, and follow any instructions listed on the container.
- Bathe with care: After a long day of work, a hot shower might be the first thing on your mind — but if you’ve got a sunburn, you might want to hold off. Hot water and pressured jets can sting the burned area. Instead, try taking a cold or lukewarm bath or standing to the side of the shower water.
- Stay hydrated: Hydrated skin can recover from symptoms and heal burns faster than dehydrated skin. Make sure you’re drinking at least 16 to 20 ounces of water before your shift and at least six to 12 ounces every 15 minutes you’re in the sun. If you do any exercise or swimming, drink more water to replenish what you sweat off.
- Wear loose clothing: One of the most challenging parts about living with sunburn is wearing clothes that might irritate the burned skin. Wear loose, baggy clothing when you can, and consider investing in cooling bedsheets to minimize overnight irritation.
- Avoid touching the area: Do not touch any blisters or broken skin, or you will disrupt the healing process. If you get excessive peeling skin as the burn heals, you can gently exfoliate any blister-free areas with a loofah or washcloth — just be sure to moisturize the area afterward.
Get Lifeguard Sunscreen at The Lifeguard Store
Sunshine is a normal part of every outdoor lifeguard’s routine, but with proper protection, you can avoid sunburn. Choose a high-quality, lifeguard-approved sunscreen to protect your skin. The Lifeguard Store has several kinds of sunscreen, including gallon bottles and individual options. We also offer sunscreen with additional features, like ocean-friendly and biodegradable formulas. Visit us online to find the best sunscreen for you, and browse other lifeguard essentials like swimwear, apparel, rescue equipment and personal gear.