Summer is here!
If you’re a kid who has endured the past eight months of school or an adult who hates dressing in layers just to get the mail, it’s a wonderful time of year. I always looked forward to it as a kid, largely because I was so miserable at school. But even after I started working, I still looked forward to summer. No matter what job I had, it just felt less strenuous with the knowledge that pools were open and beach vacations were possible.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve only come to appreciate summer even more. I wasn’t able to do much traveling for a couple years. Now, my summer travel plans are largely back to normal. That usually means I’ll be taking multiple trips to the beach and I’ll be spending a good chunk of that time lounging about, reading comics under the sun, and hanging out with friends and family. Just thinking about it makes me feel more relaxed.
And I encourage everyone to take time this summer to enjoy themselves. It doesn’t matter if that involves a trip to the beach, a walk in the park, or eating ice cream on a hot day. We all should get out and enjoy this time of year. It’s good for us on so many levels.
But, like with any activity, seasonal or otherwise, there are risks and precautions. Most are minor. If you have a lick of common sense, you already know what to do and you’ll be fine. But in the spirit of celebrating this time of year, I’d like to share a personal story that I hope reminds everyone why these precautions are worth taking. And it involves sunburns and sunscreen.
I know it’s a common concern. Go to any beach, pool, or summer hot spot and chances are someone will urge you to put on sunscreen. For some, it’s more important than others. And that definitely applies to me.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always burned easily. Whereas my sisters always seem to get a nice tan by spending time in the sun, my brother and I always burn and burn badly. Even when we use sunscreen, we can get burned. Granted, that’s often a result of us not applying enough of it. But that doesn’t make the burn hurt any less. I could recount plenty of stories about times when I got nasty sunburns that took weeks to heal.
But one story in particular will always stand out and I hope that by sharing it, others will take applying sunscreen more seriously.
This is a pretty recent story as well, taking place only about six years ago. That’s important because it happened while I was a capable, functioning adult. It’s one thing for kids to get sunburned. They’re stubborn and short-sighted. I know I certainly was and I ended up with plenty of burns that left lasting impressions. So, by this point in my life, I had no excuses.
It happened during a memorable 4th of July trip to the beach. I took an extended vacation so that I could travel to the beach to meet up with some friends and family. We were going to spend some time at the shore, enjoy some fireworks, and have a cookout. It was a perfect setup for the 4th of July holiday and I was so ready to enjoy it.
On the first day I was there, I met up with my dad and we spent almost the entire day lounging at the beach. It was a perfect summer day. It was hot, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. You really couldn’t have asked for better weather for a holiday weekend.
Knowing this, I did make it a point to apply plenty of sunscreen. I tried to cover every part of my body that usually burned quickly. I promised myself that this trip wasn’t going to result in some painful burn that would obscure an otherwise perfect summer trip. Sadly, I couldn’t keep that promise.
While I did use over half a bottle of sunscreen to smother most of my body, there was one particular part I missed. It was a small patch just around the tops of my feet. That’s not normally a part of my body on which I apply sunscreen, mostly because I wear sneakers all the time, even in hot weather. So, in my rush to get down to the beach, I missed that part. And the summer sun punished me for it.
The day at the beach was still great. It was the first time in weeks that I could just sit down, relax, and not worry about all the other stuff that was going on my life. It also gave me some quality time with my dad, which I always enjoy. That was all great and totally worth it. But it wasn’t until later that evening I realized something.
The tops of my feet hurt like hell.
When I tried putting my shoes on to go out for dinner, the pain was really bad. And that’s when I found out what had happened. The tops of my feet were badly sunburned. The rest of my body was fine. The parts that usually got burned easily were unaffected. I even had a slight tan in some areas. But the patch of burns on my feet were bright red with burns.
I know it’s not fun to have any part of your body sunburned. But trust me, burning the tops of your feet is especially painful. It’s not just that it makes wearing shoes and socks a test in pain tolerance. The mere act of taking a shower becomes difficult. I found that out the hard way the next morning. For the rest of the trip, I had to be careful with what I wore on my feet and what I did. The burns were just that bad.
As painful as it was, I still had fun during that trip. It didn’t keep me from enjoying my time at the beach or the various 4th of July festivities that came with it. But it did help reinforce the importance of sunscreen for me. Since then, I’ve become much more thorough when it comes to applying it for a trip to the beach or pool. And you can rightly assume that I’ll always put a little extra on my feet.
Again, I encourage everyone to get out there and enjoy this summer. Go to the beach. Go to the pool. Go to a cookout with friends and family. Enjoy the sun and the warmth. Just be safe and responsible. You don’t want to deal with sunburns more than you have to. And you especially don’t want to deal with burns on your feet.