Sun protection, sun rays, hiking

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Be careful, our friend the sun may also turn into a bad experience!

Skin and sun rays

The skin that protects us comprises three layers:

  • The superficial layer, the epidermis, that is the protective coating of the skin,
  • The intermediate layer, the dermis, a stretch fibrous area that reacts to deformation,
  • The deep layer, the hypodermis, that acts as an insulator and a reserve of energy.

Two type of rays can damage the skin and penetrate it:

  • UVAs cause immediate redness, skin ageing, and skin cancers,
  • UVBs are responsible for sunburns, but also for the brown colour of your tan. They are involved in the synthesis of vitamin D, essential to the binding of calcium on the bones to fight osteoporosis, but they may also cause skin cancers

Therefore, sun exposure provides benefits as well as damages

Benefits:

  • Helps fight osteoporosis for both genders,
  • Boosts the mood and improves wellness,
  • Provides a healthy complexion and possibly improves certain skin conditions such as psoriasis,
  • Makes you want to go out and do sports!

Damages:

  • heat stroke and hyperthermia,
  • sunburns and blisters,
  • worsening of acne,
  • skin ageing and thickening,
  • skin allergies, particularly combined with certain topical products or perfumes,
  • depigmentation spots,
  • cancers
  • …..and in children, reduction of the "sun capital"
  • may also bring out herpes

How to protect yourself from sun rays

Be careful with:

  • exposure between 11am and 4pm, depending on the solar times,
  • the mirror effect, that creates limited reverberation on the sand, even more on an air mattress, and very significant reverberation on the snow,
  • children are the most vulnerable and not everybody can withstand the same quantity of sun,
  • people with red hair are hyper sensitive whereas people with a dark skin are very resistant to sunburns,
  • there are familial predispositions to skin cancers,
  • the apparition of a first tumour related to sun exposure shows that your sun resistance capital has run out and you are now at higher risk of skin cancers

How to protect from the sun

First precaution: untanned skin should always be gradually exposed to the sun

  • Scalp: be very careful. Wear a hat or a cap wide enough to also protect your neck, ears and face.
  • The eyes are the first to be exposed. Wear sunglasses with grade 3 or 4 EC certification.
  • Skin and body: the best protection is the sports clothes, and even more when they are made from UV protection material.
  • Use an appropriate sunscreen that should reflect and absorb UVAs and UVBs without causing allergies. It must have a protection factor (SPF) over 30 to provide highly effective protection, and should be applied every 2 hours in two layers.
  • Avoid dehydration: drink and move to the shade to recover and rest. Don't nap and fry in the sun!

Conclusion

Sun is better than rain! but it should be welcomed with caution

Docteur Patrick Bacquaert

Médecin chef de l'IRBMS

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    Advice

    Hiking is both a leisure and discovery activity and a form of physical exercise. The length of your walk and the cold or intense heat will require a great deal of energy. Dry mountain air may accelerate dehydration. Keeping hydrated when hiking is essential to derive the maximum benefit from your efforts and to enjoy the landscapes and get away from it all.

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