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How to avoid a splash-and-burn weekend

Staff writer

Splashing around in cool water sounds like heaven in the hot summer. Children love to splash, no matter what the thermometer says, but it is important to remember the sun can be dangerous; and fun and laughter can turn into tears without the proper protection from sunburn.

“When it’s really hot, 90 degrees or more, we have 10-minute breaks every hour,” Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center co-manager Chelsea Bebermeyer said. “It gives everyone a chance to get out of the sun and water, dry off, and put on more sunscreen.”

Sunscreen is a very important piece of the pool fun puzzle. No one is immune to the sun’s radiation and a human body immersed in water seems to attract the rays at a higher degree.

Anyone over the age of six months should apply sunscreen when working or playing outdoors. Even on cloudy days, those playing in a swimming pool need to have sun protection factor of 15 or more applied to prevent sunburns.

“I recommend everyone use an SPF 30 and above,” Bebermeyer said. “All of the guards here have some, and they are all willing to share, so if someone comes to the pool and needs sunscreen all they have to do is ask.”

Sunscreens contain several ingredients that help prevent the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. There are two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB, that damage the skin, age it prematurely, and increase risk of skin cancer.

UVB is the chief culprit behind sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are associated with wrinkling, leathering, sagging, and other light-induced effects of aging.

Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect against both types of radiation. The SPF number is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. If it takes 20 minutes for unprotected skin to start turning red, an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer — about five hours.

Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent.

No sunscreen can block all UV rays. In addition, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, stays effective longer than two hours without reapplication.

“I think parents do a good job of keeping their kids lathered up,” Bebermeyer said. “The group I see with the most trouble is the middle-school age boys that come on their own.”

Putting on sunscreen might be a hassle for some, but it is better than getting painful burns. Sunscreen can prevent these burns.

“It’s no fun to not be able to come back into the pool because of blisters from the sun,” Bebermeyer said. “Everyone needs to have sunscreen on rather than fry.”

Last modified June 28, 2012

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