Over exposure to the sun may be the most common of all travel maladies. Sunburns are first and second degree burns caused by the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. These can occur at any temperature and are, in fact, more likely in snowy and icy conditions where the sun’s rays are reflected off snow and ice.
Overexposure to high temperatures, coupled with severe dehydration is known as sunstroke or hyperthermia. This occurs when the body can no longer regulate its temperature through perspiration, causing the body temperature to spike uncontrollably. Without immediate treatment sunstroke can cause brain damage and even death.
As the sun’s rays are strongest at midday, travelers should avoid strenuous activity in direct sun between around eleven am and three pm. High SPF waterproof sunscreen is a must for water-sports, but the best sun protection comes from long-sleeved tops, long pants or skirts, and wide-brimmed hats.
How serious: sunburns are a minor inconvenience, but should be avoided as they increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Sunstroke is a serious condition that can result in brain damage and death.
How likely: as most travelers seek some sort of ‘fun-in-the-sun’, overexposure to the sun is a common malady. It is, however, easily avoidable with a few simple precautions.
How to get it: overexposure to the sun causes sunburns, while sunstroke is caused by a combination of severe dehydration and prolonged exposure to extreme heat.
Symptoms: sunburns cause redness, pain, itching, and a hot sensation. Severe sunburns can also cause blisters, followed by peeling skin. Sunstroke symptoms include disorientation, hostility, headache, dizziness, increased respiration and heart rate and fainting. White, or bluish skin, chills, nausea, vomiting, convulsions and temporary blindness also occur in severe cases.
How to avoid it: wear protective clothing or high SPF sunscreen, avoid mid-afternoon sun, and stay hydrated with water and isotonic drinks that replenish electrolytes.
How to treat it: aloe vera, vitamin E, or lidocaine creams relieve sunburn pain. Severe sunstroke requires medical attention. While awaiting professional care, move victim to a cool, well-ventilated area, re-hydrate, remove excess clothing, and apply cool compresses to forehead and torso.
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