Being out in the sun is almost impossible to avoid for a gardener. Most of the time gardeners are out in the sun up to five hours or more. This can cause sunburns – some possibly severe – if proper precautions are not taken. Sunburns can be very painful, and have long-lasting effects to the skin.
A sunburn is an injury to the skin. Long term exposure to the sun’s rays kills the outer skin cells, and damages the small blood vessels near the surface. This is what causes the redness, swelling and pain. Repeating this damage over time can cause the skin to lose its elasticity, causing wrinkles and can lead to some forms of cancer.
How To Prevent Sunburns While Vegetable Gardening
Wear Plenty of Sunscreen
Sunscreen protection has come a long way in recent years, as has information on the sun’s damaging effect on the skin. Make sure to use sunscreen on exposed areas of the skin, with a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15. The higher the SPF number, the better protection it provides. I usually use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 or higher. Make sure to reapply sunscreen about every 1/2 hour if you are perspiring, even if it is a waterproof sunscreen. The waterproof types can still lose its punch if it gets wet. Always read the label before using sunscreen, and if you have any questions, consult your physician prior to use.
Wear Protective Clothing
Try to wear clothes that are tight-knit, but loose fitting (you don’t want to over heat, that could be worse that the sunburn). Wear a garden hat to help protect your head and face from the sun. Wearing long sleeves will help to protect your arms, but make sure to drink plenty of fluids, and take frequent breaks to avoid becoming over heated. Try to keep your clothing dry – wet clothes can cause UV rays to penetrate through the materials.
How To Treat a Sunburn
Use a Cold Compress
Take a washcloth or towel and soak it with cool water, wring it out, then lay on the sunburn. The cool water will begin to evaporate, cooling the sunburn. Do this two to three times a day for half an hour.
Put Cream On the Burn
Use hydrocortisone cream directly on the burn three to four times a day. This will help to relieve some of the pain from the sunburn. For best results, apply the cream then add a cold compress.
Use Aloe Lotions
Aloe has long been known for its antiseptic and burn relief properties. Applying aloe lotions or creams on burns can also help to relieve pain and accelerate healing of the skin.
Take Pain Relievers
Take ibuprofen or aspirin to help relieve discomfort and inflammation due to the sunburn. If you have a severe sunburn, seek medical attention immediately.
For more information about the risks of sun exposure for gardeners, please read The Dark Side Of Summer Gardening (This link will take you to an MSNBC article).