No Sweat: How To Fight Off Sunburn Like a Hippo

The African wilderness is home to some of Earth's most famous and magnificent animals. One of its easily recognizable natives is the hippopotamus—the third largest land mammal in the world (first place goes to elephants, followed by white rhinos). Although their dense bodies make it impossible to swim, float or breathe underwater, the semi-aquatic hippos live in waterways, lakes and mangroves to stay cool in the sweltering heat.

Hippos can get cold if they stay in the water for prolonged periods, so they come out for a significant amount of time. Hippos have two-inch-thick, waterproof skin but are extremely sensitive and can quickly burn and dry out in the blistering African sun. Do not worry! The super cool hippos secrete a thick, oily, red-colored liquid from their pores known as "blood sweat," creating a layer of mucus that protects them from sunburn and cools their hairless skin. Their blood sweat also acts as a natural antibiotic that prevents them from getting infections, even if they hang out in filthy waters.

Taking a Page from San Antonio Zoo's Timothy the Hippo's Skincare Routine

Timothy, the hippo, doesn't need to apply sunscreen, but you do. The Baptist Health System and San Antonio Zoo believe sun safety is always a priority. Learn more about how to keep yourself and your family safe from the sun this summer.

hippo having fun
Use sunscreen. No matter your skin tone, apply a generous amount of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and make sure it's broad-spectrum (both protect from UVA and UVB rays—two types of UV light that raise the risk for skin cancer). Choose a water-resistant product if you plan to go for a swim and re-apply at least every two hours.
hippo in the house
Limit your time in the sun. Avoid leaving the house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (when the sun is at its strongest rays), even on cloudy, cool or overcast days.
hippo in clothes
Thread up. Wear fabrics with a tight weave to better cover the skin exposed to the sun. To check how tight a fabric's weave is, put your hand inside clothes and hold them up to see how much light shines through. Select materials with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label when shopping for clothes.
hippo in sunglasses
Wear sunglasses. Too much sun exposure over time can be harmful to the eyes. Multicolored, youth-sized sunglasses with a UV 400 rating or 100% UV protection can be a sun-safe and fun fashion accessory.
hippo in a hat
Put on a hat. If you don't have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat with an all-around 3-inch brim to shield the face, ears and back of the neck from the sun.

Think Sun Safety and Hydration

While spending time in the sun is a great way to be active and get a daily dose of Vitamin D, hydration is just as essential to help you stay in tip-top shape. When you go outside, bring a water bottle to replace the salt lost from excessive sweating.

Staying cool as a hippo this summer can be easier than it seems. But if you or someone you know suffers from a heat stroke or dehydration, go to the nearest hospital or call 911. Please don't delay care.

Animal Fact Guide Academy of Pediatrics
National Geographic National Geographic Kids
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Animals & Plants
Skin Cancer Foundation
U.S. Food & Drug Administration

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