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Sunburn Information for Paddlers

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DISCLAIMER: The following information is not intended, nor should it be assumed to be, a substitute for formal training in First Aid treatment and procedures. This information is presented to raise awareness of some medical conditions which can arise on canoeing, camping or hiking trips so that participants may better prepare themselves for all eventualities. The information presented is not intended to replace advice or instructions given by trained professional medical personnel. Information herein is gleened from various professional medical resources including the US Navy On-line Hospital web site, the American Red Cross web site and other reliable resources. It must be realized that improper or inadequate treatment of injuries can result in damages that sometimes are greater than doing nothing at all. Whenever possible and practical the assistance of trained, professional medical personnel should be summoned to administer treatment for serious injuries. The nature of outdoor recreation is such that injuries sometimes occur in remote areas far from available professional assistance. The information in this section is intended to be a helpful guide for treatment of injuries in such cases when getting professional help is not immediate and the nature of the injuries requires prompt attention. Marc McCord is not a trained medical practitioner, and makes no claim of expertise in treatment of injuries. Marc McCord and Southwest Paddler are not responsible for improper treatment of injuries and resulting damages that may occur.

Sunburn is easily preventable, but frequently suffered, especially by paddlers of lesser experience. It can occur in cold weather as well as hot summer seasons. The best way to avoid sunburn is by avoiding direct solar exposure, but some parts of the body will always be more likely to get sunburned. These include the face, neck, hands, arms, and in warmer weather, legs and feet. Wearing a hat, longsleeve shirts and longlegged pants will prevent most sunburns. Using a water-resistant sunscreen rated SPF 15 on exposed skin, and occasionally re-applying it on very sunny days or during periods of long exposure, will help prevent or reduce sunburn on uncovered areas. Beware of applying sunscreen above the eyes, as perspiration can wash it down into the eyes producing a very unpleasant burning sensation that lasts for several hours.

Sunburns are generally in the first-degree or second-degree classification of burns, and generally do not require more than basic first aid. On rare occasions, when extreme sunburn occurs, hospitalization may be required. If, for whatever reason, sunburn does occur, then the best treatment is an aloe-based gel or ointment applied to the affected area. Such products are readily available at almost any drug or grocery store. In cases where additional solar exposure is likely to occur after a sunburn has been received it would be advisable to cover burned areas with loose-fitting cotton clothing to prevent further exposure. Wearing lightweight, 100% cotton clothing in warm weather will actually help keep the body cooler. Perspiration will dampen the cloth and act as a radiator to vent heat away from the body. Light colors are preferred, and white works best. Avoid dark colors, and especially black. Sunburn conditions are not the place to make a fashion statement.

At all times during hot weather, and especially after suffering a sunburn, drink plenty of cool or cold liquids to help lower body core temperatures and prevent dehydration. For additional information about heat-related illnesses and problems click HERE.

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Last updated December 30, 2014

Copyright © 1997-2015, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.