Can Danger Lurk Under The Tropical Sun While You’re On Vacation?

by Dorothy Yamich

Even though these sun related problems, sunburn, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, are not diseases, they can be very serious and could put a real damper on your vacation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when dealing with the sun. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays are more intense between noon and three p.m. in the tropics and at high altitudes, even if it’s a cloudy or overcast day.

What can you do to prevent getting a sunburn?

In general, the fairer or lighter your skin is, the easier you may sunburn. Even clouds offer little or no protection from a severe sunburn. So why take a chance of ruining your holiday when getting a painful sunburn is easy to protect against? To prevent getting a bad sunburn, especially if you sunburn easily, use a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30, or stronger if possible. Use the sunscreen liberally, wear a wide-brimmed sun hat, choose UVA & UVB protection certified sunglasses, and wear a long-sleeved shirt and slacks. Try to stay out of the sun between noon and three in the afternoon. Build up your exposure to the sun gradually, day by day. Limit the length of time that you spend in the sun to about fifteen minutes the first day, and increase your time in the sun gradually on subsequent days.

What can you do to treat a severe sunburn?

You can ease the pain of a sunburn if you soak in a cool bath three to four times every day. If you add baking soda to your bath, it will help even more. Cool showers may hurt too much, and not be as soothing or effective as cool, relaxing baths. To help with any headaches, or pain and swelling, take an aspirin or other pain medication such as Ibuprofen or Advil. It may not be a good idea to take any aspirin based pain medications if you are on a blood thinner or have an ulcer. If you’re not sure about taking these pain relievers, check with a doctor or pharmacist. Avoid dehydration by drinking at least six to eight glasses of water per day. Do not break any blisters if you can avoid it. Any broken blister can easily get infected, particularly in the humid climate of the tropics. Wash them gently with soap and warm water if they happen to break.

If the sunburn doesn’t appear to be healing and you are still in pain after a few days, you develop a very high temperature or fever, have a splitting headache that just won’t go away, are vomiting or have diarrhea, feel dizzy or confused, or your eyes hurt and bright light bothers them, you need to see a medical professional immediately.

How can you prevent heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is completely preventable. Wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat, drinking lots of liquids, and staying out of intense heat and humidity will help you avoid this serious problem.

What should you do if you have the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is precipitated by a combination of high temperatures and humidity. This can result in your body’s loss of fluids from excess sweating. These fluids must be replaced quickly or heat exhaustion can occur.

The symptoms include headache, fatigue, lethargy, giddiness, and muscle cramps. The treatment is to immediately move out of the sun or heat and drink plenty of liquids, preferably commercial beverages containing electrolytes, such as Gatorade. Do not drink any alcohol as this will make your condition worse.

If you do not feel better and show positive signs of recovery within a very short period of time, have someone help you get to a hospital immediately as your condition could easily progress into a true medical emergency called heatstroke.

What actions must you immediately take if you get heat stroke?

If heat exhaustion is not successfully treated immediately, it can result in a critical medical emergency. Heatstroke is characterized by an extremely high body temperature of 102 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39 to 41 degrees Centigrade. There is a cessation of sweating. The main symptoms of heatstroke include a flushed, red skin, a bad headache, confusion which can quickly progress into delirium and convulsions, which can then be fatal.

Note: Someone must help you get out of the sun or heat and rush you immediately to a hospital or medical center.

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