Getting a suntan is high up the list for many travellers, but even if you are not stretched out on a beach roasting yourself in the direct sun you need to be aware of the potential problems from being in the sun too long...
The bottom line is DON'T GET SUNBURNT but this is not always so easy to avoid; You may not be used to the intensity of the sun in certain areas of the world and may not realise you are slowly cooking, even with sun cream on or when it is cloudy!
How to prevent sunburn
The intensity of the sun differs around the world by the following:
- Latitude (hotter nearer the equator)
- Altitude (even though it may be getting colder the higher you go the sun is getting stronger)
- Time of day
- Reflection (water, concrete, snow etc)
Cover exposed skin to protect from the sun
The most effective way to protect yourself is to cover up. Wearing a hat or cap is very effective and sunglasses with UV protection are a must.
If you are doing adventurous activities for a sustained period you should be careful to either cover up any exposed areas with light clothing or be extremely vigilant with your sun cream application.
Apply a suncream
Ensure you apply suncream of the right factor for your skin type. More about sun creams.
So you've got sun burnt?
The problem with sunburn is that it comes on gradually and can vary from a mild redness to a blistering burn with swelling.
How to treat mild sunburn
If you only have mild sunburn you must take the heat out of your skin by using a cold cloth laid over the area and a fan.
Painkillers like aspirin or paracetamol may be necessary as well.
There are also lots of after-sun creams and lotions available to treat sunburn. The best sunburn lotions contain calamine or aloe vera. Avoid greasy after-sun creams as these tend to trap the heat. You could also try lavender essential oil applied undiluted to treat sunburn.
How to treat bad sunburn
If the sun burn is severe then you may feel feverish due to dehydration and heat loss from the sun burnt area.
Drink plenty of water and consider rehydration solutions.
Avoid direct sunlight and try and take the heat out of the sunburnt skin with cold cloths and aloe vera lotions.
If you have a blistering of the skin then you need to prevent a secondary infection by keeping the area clean and by applying an antibacterial cream. Seek medical help if the area does not improve.
Rest, keep hydrated and seek medical help if you feel unwell.
DO NOT GET SUNBURNT AGAIN!
Sun cream is extremely important and should be purchased however broke you may get on your travels.
Sun cream factors
The factor will depend on your skin type.
For example, if you have fair skin you will require a higher sun protection factor (SPF) of suncream, such as 30+SPF.
Sun cream factors are also determined by altitude. The higher you go, the higher the suncream factor you will need, especially if you are in the mountains skiiing or snowboarding where the sun will also be reflected off the snow.
When to apply suncream?
You should apply sun cream as follows:
- Apply 20-30 minutes before you go in the sun.
- Apply regularly (especially if you are in water or are sweating a lot).
- You will get burnt through water (make sure all areas of skin are looked after when snorkeling or swimming - watch the reflection too!). Get a water resistant lotion.
- Apply even on cloudy days if you are in the sun for sustained periods as UV is still gets through the clouds.
Just because it is cold does not mean that UV is not present. How hot it is is not an indication of how much you may burn.
Always consult your GP regarding sunburn risks.