Exposure to Sun and Heat

In the British Isles sun and heat should not present a serious hazard to fit young people if they take simple precautions.  Considerable discomfort and distress can be experienced on Expeditions however, many of which come to a premature end because participants omit to take these precautions.  The infrequent really hot summers in this country create far more problems and more ventures are aborted than in the usual British summer.  The effects of sun and heat have to be anticipated well in advance as they are more easily prevented than cured.  Ventures under the extremely hot, dry conditions common in continental Europe can pose serious problems.

Fainting and Exercise-induced Heat Exhaustion

During the hard, physical efforts of an Expedition in hot conditions, the body temperature can only be kept within safe limits by the process of sweating which leads to an excessive loss of body fluid, this, in turn, places considerable demands on the circulatory system.  A frequent and adequate fluid intake must be maintained throughout the day.  Salt is lost in sweating and must be replaced.

Fainting is the most common heat disorder and is brought on by fatigue or over-exertion.  A short rest, lying with the head down and the legs up, and drinking will usually enable the person to recover.

Sunburn

The short-term effects of over-exposure to the sun are so well known that it is surprising that so many participants suffer from sunburn through a failure to cover the skin.  Fatigue resulting from headaches and the failure to get a good night's sleep are as significant as carrying a rucksack on burnt shoulders.

 

Even more serious are the long-term effects.  There are around forty thousand new cases of skin cancer every year in the UK, with over two thousand deaths.  Skin cancer is one of the most rapidly growing killers of young people in this country.  Protection must be provided against the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB).  The harmful effects of the third form (UVC) are filtered out by the earth's atmosphere.  The amount of ultraviolet radiation is increased with altitude and by reflection from water. 

Where the skin is exposed, a sun blocker or a high factor (16 or more) sunscreen should be used.  This should be water-resistant as this is the only practical form for those taking part in outdoor ventures.  New, invisible titanium-based blockers have been developed and these are now available in some chemists.

For groups on the move, especially when there is a breeze, the burning takes place unnoticed until it is too late and the damage done.  The body, arms and legs must be protected with loose-fitting light clothing, preferably of cotton which does not impede sweating.  Garments made from new synthetic fibres have been specially designed to give both protection and comfort in hot weather.  If shorts are worn, the calves are particularly vulnerable; the legs must be protected at frequent intervals with one of the high factor blocking agents.  The head and neck deserve special attention and a hat with a wide, stiff brim provides the best protection.  Protection for the neck may be improvised by pinning a handkerchief, a triangular bandage or towel to the back of any hat with safety pins from the first aid kit.