Sun burn is bad even during the best of times. Too much sun can lead to illness and sun stroke, and can be fatal. What are our options for sun protection?
Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer. UV rays from the sun can burn you on cloudy days, just it can on clear and sunny days. Ultraviolet rays reflect off of surfaces like water, snow, sand and cement. This can increase your exposure and lead to faster or more intense sun burns.
Exposure during Seasons and Times of Day
Your exposure is highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the most hazardous times for UV exposure outdoors in the continental United States. Also consider, that UV rays from sunlight are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.
How can you reduce your sun exposure?
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck
- Use a Shemagh, bandana or drape other clothing or fabric over your head, ears and neck
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. A typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), which tells you how much protection you can expect to get from that article of clothing.
- Wear sunglasses or goggles, that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays
- Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection
- Avoid the sun. Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours
What if you are caught in the sun unexpectedly and need to be on the move?
Mud: You can smear mud over exposed skin for added sun protection and to prevent sunburn. Mud acts as a physical barrier sunscreen, because it prevents the sun’s UV rays from contacting or penetrating your skin. Mud will stick to your skin and then likely crack and fall off, leaving behind a dirty residue that can also block UV rays. If you find yourself without proper clothing or any other source of sunscreen, covering yourself with mud or dirt or any other similar opaque substance will help reflect the sun’s rays from your skin and prevent sunburn.
Aspen Trees: The white powder on the outside of aspen tree trunks can be used as a physical barrier sunscreen. It provides an approximate SPF of 5. Rub the palms of your hands along an aspen tree’s trunk, and the white powder should stick to your hands. Spread this powder over any exposed skin, including your face, arms, and hands. Plan ahead and scrape extra powder from the aspen tree’s trunk and save it for later applications.
It’s important to re-apply any sunscreen frequently, especially if you are sweating or get wet!
What to do if you get Sunburned?
- Get out of the sun and into some shade or indoors.
- Soak in a stream, pond, lake, tub or apply a cold wet compress
- Apply Aloe Vera Gel (if available). Trust me on this, I am a pale man, and I burn badly.
- Apply Vinegar, preferably Apple Cider Vinegar. This method is only suitable for skin without ruptures of any sort; it is not suitable if you have any abrasions on your sunburned skin!
- Plants can sooth sunburn: jewelweed, witch hazel, and Aloe Vera. Make a poultice of jewelweed and smear over affected areas, or press oil out of witch hazel leaves and apply to sunburned skin. Aloe vera, if available, contains a soothing liquid inside of its leaves.
If your sunburn is severe seek medical attention, do not pop the blisters and try to stay hydrated during your healing and recovery period!