How To Stay Safe In The Sun
By Rob Spencer
The high mountains, wild rivers and the ocean can be dangerous places, a fall, a swim or something landing on your head is always a possibility and is probably the hazard that most folk are aware of most of the time when playing in the outdoors. However it's often the weather that can be the real threat. It's all pretty obvious when it's stormy and violent or when it's freezing cold but it's the sun that can really catch you out and give you long term, even life threatening problems.
A suntan may make you look healthy and the sun is indeed important to our well being. Our bodies produce Vitamin D when exposed to the sun and the mood enhancing hormone serotonin is also produced, making you feel good. However the sun is also aging your skin and can obviously burn it if you don't take precautions.
This is of course all manageable and you are n't going to die from a bit of burning and premature aging.
But you can die from skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and 80% of it is caused by the sun. There are probably over 100,000 cases a year. There are about 8100 cases of melanoma every year and this is the most malignant form of cancer. 1700 people will probably die this year from preventable skin cancer.
Being young won't help. Skin cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in the 20-39 age group and rates have gone up by 24% in the last 5 years.
So this outdoor hazard needs to be taken seriously but it's easy to do:
1. Cover Up
Clothing protects your skin so wear long sleeves when you can and keep that neck covered with a scarf or "Buff".
2. Wear a hat
Wearing a hat protects you from the sunLots of styles are available and what you wear obviously it depends on your own preference but whatever type of hat you choose to wear - make sure it does the job. A broad brimmed, legionnaire or bucket hat are the preferred types and are a crucial part of your protection.
3. Seek the Shade
Not always possible but sometimes essential if you want to climb to your full potential. 75% of harmful UV radiation can be eliminated but reflective surfaces like snow and water will scatter light and so the effect may not be quite as beneficial as you think. You will still need sun screen.
4. Use Sun Screen
Best if you use it all the time really. Most of the PYB instructors use daily moisturiser anyway; it's important if you are out and about all the time so pick a product that suits you and make sure it has a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. It will keep you looking young and give you a daily base level of protection.
Once it starts to get sunny you will need to make more of an effort.
Use a broad spectrum SPF 30+ water resistant sunscreen which protects you from the suns harmful UVA and UVB rays. SPF 50 would be better if you have fair skin and / or you are going to be in very bright conditions. Don't forget that the snow and water makes things worse. UVA protection is measured by a star rating, 1 to 5. Look for a 5 star rating for maximum protection.
Wear Sun Cream Whenever you go outdoorsPYB instructors have been testing Uvistats 5 star formulations for cream and lip screen and have been really happy with the results.
Get into the habit of slapping the first lot of cream on before going out into the sun. I put the tube by my tooth brush so I always remember to slap it on, even if it is 2am in a mountain hut. Don't confuse the cream with the toothpaste though!
Make sure you cover every bit of your skin that needs protection. Your face has loads of easily missed nooks and crannies so be extra thorough with ears, under your chin, neck and the inside of your nose.
You are likely to be sweating a lot, wiping your brow or splashing about in the water so get into the habit of reapplying your sunscreen every couple of hours. Again try and get into a routine - stop, have a drink, slap on the sun cream, look at the view and take a photo.
5. Protect Your Eyes
Wear Good Sunglasses That Offer Protection From The SunglassesYour eyes can be damaged by repeated exposure to UV radiation as well.
Short term irritation can lead onto snow blindness which is actually sunburn of the cornea. It's incredibly painful and can lead to long term damage so must be taken seriously. If you do hurt your eyes in this way, cover them up immediately and limit the amount of light entering the eye to what is tolerable and feasible. Aspirin will help reduce the inflammation as will dripping cold tea into the eye.
Best to avoid the pain and the strain in the first place and get some serious eye protection.
Sunglasses should be close fitting and wraparound and cover the eye area as much as possible. Get someone to help you check the fit by looking for gaps. Try on lots of different styles until you get some shades that fit your face. The cool and trendy ones you fancy may not be the best in terms of protection.
Standards are important and you should look for sunglasses which conform to EU Standard EN 1836-1997 and Australian Standard 1067-1-1990. Go for Category EN 3 or 4.
Plas y Brenin instructors have been using Julbo glasses for a number of years because they conform to these exacting standards.