Travel precautions for summer travel fun in the sun

by Ned Levi on May 28, 2012

Eternal Flame, Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, Washington Square, Philadelphia. Photo by NSL Photography, http://www.nslphotography.com

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, giving each American a special opportunity to honor the memory of our service men and women who gave their lives for us, ensuring our nation’s freedom.

As is my custom, I will make my way to Washington Square, Philadelphia, to the “Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier.” There, in the shadow of Independence Hall, where many unnamed soldiers of that war were buried, an eternal flame burns in perpetual vigilance.

Memorial Day kicks off America’s summer vacation season. This summer many will travel and explore America’s historic cities and towns, and the many battlefields at which so many lost their lives.

While summer is a great opportunity for travel, it’s also full of health hazards. When we travel in summer we must take precautions to maintain our health.

Make sure you protect yourself and your family from the sun. It’s especially important to protect young children out in the sun. The skin of a baby or young child is thinner than older children and adults. The younger the child, the higher the risk of damage and pain from sunburn.

Because their skin has less melanin pigment, most natural blonds, redheads, and others with fair skin, like children, are more susceptible to sunburn.

Note: Darker complected children have more natural protection than other children, but are still at risk from sunburn, and must be protected.

If you’re at the seashore or at a lake, the need for sun protection intensifies. According to Dr. Susan Bershad of The Mount Sinai Medical Center,

“The sun’s rays are intensified by reflection off sand and water. In addition, beach-goers must be especially cautious about sunscreens wearing off from swimming in the waves, toweling off, and sweating in the hot sun.”

Dr. Bershad recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. In hot weather, when people are sweating, sunscreen should be reapplied about once per hour from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m., and always reapply it after swimming or toweling off.

When on the beach itself, it makes sense to sit under an umbrella or shady tree, if there is one. When the sun is at its hottest, take a break by going inside or at least getting under shade.

Another great idea when not in the water is to wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt or cover-up and a hat for additional sun protection. Don’t forget to cover or apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet when not wearing sneaks when strolling down the beach. Wear quality sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.

Even when not at the beach, when out touring in the summer, sun protection is essential.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), getting a suntan isn’t a good idea.

“There’s no other way to say it. Any change in skin color after time outdoors — whether suntan or sunburn — means damage from UV rays. And just a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer.”

When you’re out in the sun while traveling this summer, put 30 SPF or higher sunscreen on unprotected areas of your body.

I follow the CDC clothing recommendations to protect myself from the sun while traveling.

I wear loose fitting, long sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabrics, which wick my perspiration and stay relatively dry. A wet shirt offers less UV protection than a dry one. I always wear sneaks or hiking shoes and socks to protect my feet.

I wear a hat, made from a tightly woven fabric, with a wide brim all the way around it, to protect my head, face, ears, and the back of my neck. It has venting, so it’s not too hot, but it’s designed with a mesh which keeps me protected from UV light, despite the venting. Don’t wear a straw hat with holes, as they offer little protection. If you make the mistake of wearing a baseball style cap, make sure you liberally apply 30 SPF or higher sunscreen to your ears, the sides of your face, and the back of your neck.

Don’t forget to wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection to limit your exposure to UV radiation and reduce your risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from the sun. Wrap-around sunglasses offer the best protection because they also block your eyes from being exposed to UV light from the side.

Summer heat is another serious problem for travelers. Heat related stress and heat stroke can be prevented. When outside, take frequent breaks and watch for any heat illness symptoms, including, but not limited to, significant thirst, cramps, increased fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches, etc.

Everyone, especially children and the elderly, must remain well-hydrated. According to the Mayo Clinic, drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water, such as fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and if you’re involved in an athletic activity, you might want to use a sports drink.

Stay away from alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, as they can accelerate dehydration. While it’s well known they are diuretics which increase your urination, what’s less well known is that they decrease your production of ADH (antidiuretic hormone), decreasing your body’s ability to reabsorb water and rehydrate.

Summer travel can be great fun if you stay safe and healthy.

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