Fair-skinned Colette Hawker was enjoying a day out to the seaside with partner Thomas Keating, and her two daughters Skye Hawker, 6, and three-year-old Cheyanne Hawker last month.
Despite the sunny weather, and slathering her two daughters in factor 50, Colette shunned sunscreen during their three-hour trip to the Devon beach as she couldn’t feel herself getting burned due to the sea breeze.
The following day Colette noticed a 50p-sized sac of pus bubbling up on her scorched shin which ballooned into a snooker ball-sized blob.
After a trip to A&E and the minor injuries unit Colette, 21, had the huge blister drained and is now speaking out to urge people to always use sun cream.
Colette from Plymouth, Devon, said: “I’ve never used sun cream. Normally at the most my shoulders will go a little bit red and peel and that’s it.
“After a couple of hours on the beach Thomas said I looked really red but I couldn’t see it because I had my sunglasses on.
“I couldn’t feel it because there was a bit of wind so I didn’t feel myself burning at all.
“When I got home I looked in the mirror and then I could see how red I was all up my legs.
“I was wearing a long dress which had pulled up a little bit which is where the sun caught me.
“As the evening went on my leg was getting tighter and tighter and it felt like I had pins and needles going through them.
“It started really hurting and I was crying in pain.
“I went and had a cool shower and then had a cool bath but the pain was terrible.”
Colette smothered the burn in after-sun and tried to sleep on top of the covers when she went to bed but the following morning her foot and ankle had swelled up and it was painful to touch.
The full-time mum wore leggings the following day to cover her sunburn and says she saw a lump bubble up from underneath her clothing.
Colette said: “I didn’t feel like I was getting burnt at the beach but the following day when I woke up my ankle was really swollen.
“When I got home from being out a family BBQ I saw something raised up in my leggings, I thought something had got in there.
“I didn’t know what it was so I touched my leg – when I did that it really hurt and I screamed the flat down.”
Colette gingerly peeled her leggings down and that’s when she saw the blister which grew bigger with each passing hour.
Colette said: “The blister was the size of a 50p piece, I just freaked out.
“Then it just got bigger and bigger before my eyes, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“I was really scared it would burst everywhere given how tight my leg felt.”
After speaking to Thomas’ mum and looking it up online, Colette knew it needed to be popped but feared getting an infection, especially as she’s pregnant.
Colette said: “It steadily got bigger and its biggest it was the size of a snooker ball. It had all this orange and yellowy green gunk inside, it made me feel physically sick looking at it.”
After calling 111, Thomas took Colette to Derriford Hospital’s A&E department where she was advised to make an appointment at the Cumberland Centre’s minor injuries unit to get it drained.
The mum grimaced her way through the extraction process which involved cutting into the blister and draining all the fluid inside.
The dead blistered skin was then cut away and the wound dressed in bandages and she had to complete a seven-day course of antibiotics to treat the infection.
Colette said: “The nurse said it was a pretty severe burn. They had to use lots of what looked like kitchen towel to stop the gunge from inside the blister going everything.
“I was crying my eyes out when they used the needle to try and pop it – it was so painful I almost passed out.
“I changed the dressings daily and now, a month on, my skin’s a bit of a different colour to the rest of my leg and is still pretty sensitive.”
Colette is now sharing her experience to urge people to use sun cream so they don’t have to endure the avoidable pain she went through.
Colette said: “I really regret going out in the sun without sun cream on, I put it on all the time now.
“If you don’t put sun cream on you’re stupid. I thought I could get away without wearing it but look at what happened to me.
“I’d urge anyone going out in the sun to wear sunscreen so they don’t have to go through what I did.”