Snow storms and cold weather make winter seem as though it’s never ending, but for many, spring break is only a few weeks away.
That means most students who plan to take trips are preparing for a week of vacation, and the usual prepping habits aren’t always the healthiest. Crash dieting and tanning may be popular ideas before heading to have fun in the sun, but professionals in Lawrence have healthier and safer alternatives to get ready for a week on the beach.
Many people want to have sun-kissed skin, and tanning beds are a popular way to get a darker complexion. But Andy Dean, a physician’s assistant at KMC Dermatology Lawrence, 4951 W. 18th St., suggests skipping the rays.
“The more exposure you have, the more damage there is, and it all accumulates over time,” Dean said. “There’s no such thing as a safe tan.”
UVA and UVB rays, the ultraviolet radiation that comes from natural sunlight and tanning bed bulbs, not only darkens skin but can cause wrinkles and skin cancer.
Dean said tanning beds increase a person’s chance of getting melanoma by 75 percent.
People looking for a safe summer glow during the winter should use a sunless alternative like spray tans.
Spray tans have a bad reputation for turning skin an orange tint or becoming blotchy, but Kelsey Puckett, cosmetologist at Dash Salon and Spa, 3727 W. Sixth St., said there are ways to avoid a bad spray tan. Airbrush tans, like the ones offered at Dash, allow a professional to spray a person rather than a machine. This way, the tan is even, and if a certain area is missed or needs more evening out, it can be taken care of immediately.
Puckett said spray tans last about seven to 10 days, and she suggests getting one a day or two before the trip so it lasts the entire week.
Spray tans allow a person to get a darker complexion without skin damage, but they don’t protect skin from the sun, so sunscreen or sunblock use while outside is still important.
Dean recommends using an SPF 30 and re-applying it every two to three hours or after going into the water.
Spring break trips usually include lying by the beach and wearing a bathing suit. Students wanting to look their best may try dieting and exercise, but between classes, work and any other activities, starting a diet and workout plan doesn’t always happen until the last minute.
Crash diets are “a societal phenomenon,” said Scott Elliott, owner of The Summit, 901 New Hampshire St. “It’s the society thing of instant gratification and procrastination combined — we’re all about quick results, and that’s where we get the last-second diet.”
Crash diets may seem like a quick fix, but they’re often unhealthy and don’t work. Elliott said depending on the type of diet a person is on, it can lead to too little water and essential carbohydrates and can mentally be a big let down.
If a person wants to lose weight, it’s more practical to begin a few months before the event.
Elliott said if a person came to him two weeks out, he’d still do his best to help them to meet their goals, but the goal would likely have to be adjusted for it to be feasible and healthy.
“It’s never too late, but let’s look into realistic goals to look the best we can,” Elliott said.
A smile is the first thing a person sees when greeting someone, so whitening teeth before meeting new people may seem logical.
Dentist John Hay, who practices in the office of Marvin Heinbach, DDS, 10 E. Ninth Street, said teeth whitening can be safe and inexpensive, but it is important to do it the right way.
Side effects of teeth whitening can include sensitivity, interference with bonding procedures like putting on a crown or cap, burning gum tissue and enamel wear, so talking to a dentist before starting a teeth whitening treatment is the best way to avoid any damage to the mouth.
“Ideally, they’d have an ongoing professional to get advice from,” Hay said.
Hay said the most important part of teeth whitening, if doing it without a professional’s advice, is to research the pros and cons of bleaching teeth and to be critical readers and thinkers when choosing a system. Carefully follow directions, and if there are any adverse effects, stop use.
Many spring breakers may expect to spend their vacation partying and drinking heavily. Some students think preparing for break includes upping their alcohol tolerance by drinking heavily the weeks before the trip.
Lawrence Memorial Hospital nurses Joan Harvey, director of the emergency department, and John Drees, community education specialist, agree that binge drinking prior to spring break is not only dangerous but pointless.
“It takes months to years to build up a tolerance for daily alcohol ingestion, and continual alcohol use is alcoholism or alcohol abuse,” Harvey said. “There is no positive about trying to prepare for spring break.”
Once at a spring break destination, Drees said to be responsible. It is OK to drink, but many injuries can result from becoming too drunk.
Alcohol poisoning can be caused by drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, but other injuries are possible as a result of drinking too much and behaving in a way a person wouldn’t when sober.
Harvey said the most important part of drinking safety is to always have one responsible person and to never be out alone.
“Have someone that can make decisions and look out for everyone’s physical and mental safety,” she said.
This is especially important when in an area that is new or unfamiliar because when intoxicated, it is easier for a person to be taken advantage of or harmed.
“You want to have fun, but you don’t want to end up on CNN,” Drees said.
Although it can be fun to flirt with strangers, sexual activity during spring break may not be the best idea.
Susan McDaneld, nurse practitioner at Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said sometimes when people go on spring break it is as if their “rules” are suspended and they behave in ways they wouldn’t normally do in their sphere.
“What you do can come back to haunt you after the fact,” McDaneld said.
McDaneld said a person is unlikely to get a sexually transmitted disease if they don’t have sex unless there is really intimate skin to skin contact, but abstinence or a barrier is the best way to avoid an unwanted STD or pregnancy.
Although STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can be treated and cured, other STDs like HIV, HPV or herpes are not curable, and an infected person must live and treat it for the rest of his life.
McDaneld said if a person has any concern at all of an STD upon his or her return from spring break to get evaluated and tested.