During my adolescent years, I was badly sun burned twice. The first time was the summer when I was 17 and visiting friends who had a home on the Indiana Dunes. The home was right on Lake Michigan, so my friend Mike and I spent far too much time swimming in the lake, and of course I did not protect myself with suntan lotion.
I realized I was in trouble on the drive home to Oak Park because I was very warm and then chilled. Within a few hours, I was miserable, so I applied cold cream to my face, arms, legs, and torso, and my mother put the cold cream on my back.
It wasn’t long before the pain and itching began, and the only thing I could do to get relief was to lie in a tub filled with cold water. This helped, but when I got out of the tub, the pain and itching quickly resumed.
I realized I would have to bite the bullet and live with the discomfort until the healing process began. It took 10 days before my skin returned to normal.
Did I learn a lesson from this? No, I didn’t learn a thing.
The next time I spent too much time in the sun and received a serious burn, I was 20. My friend Milton Van Welde and I went to Lake Geneva on a hot July Saturday, rented a row boat and slowly rowed around in the lake for two hours. This time I wore a T-shirt, but I failed to cover my legs with either lotion or long pants.
When the day ended and we drove back to Oak Park, I knew that my legs, especially the left one, were seriously burned. I went through the same pain, itching, and blistering as I had experienced with the burns I received three years earlier, but this time, I discovered that my left leg had been burned so badly that about four inches of skin on my lower leg had turned very dark. It looked like the area had been charbroiled, and whenever I tried to walk, the pain shooting up my leg was excruciating.
I knew I had to see the doctor. Fortunately, I was able to see Dr. Traut the same day I called his office.
He examined my leg, told me how foolish I had been, and gave me some kind of smelly lotion that I was told to apply every four hours to alleviate the pain. I was also told to return in three days.
When I returned to Dr. Traut’s office, he carefully examined the leg and told me that it was healing but that I had nerve damage that would take weeks to heal. He then gave me a prescription for another topical ointment, which he said would lubricate the skin on my leg.
Within three weeks, my skin was back to normal, I had no pain in my left leg, and, yes, I finally learned my lesson by limiting my exposure to the sun and staying on the shady side.