The Potential for Sun Damage when Camping
Camping in the Summer has certain manageable, even if unavoidable hazards, not the least of which is over-exposure to the SUN.
I have to admit that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to getting out of my RV and enjoying the great outdoors in and around my campground.
It’s just so much fun to do those things that you just don’t have an opportunity to do when you are sitting at home.
Hiking, Swimming, lying on the Sand at a great Beach, or just sitting outside at some Tiki Bar or Cafe surrounded by Palm Trees and other lovers of the fantastic warm weather.
And, honestly, I’m one of those bull-headed people who ran around for years on my vacations; without a hat (I hate wearing Hats), without adequate Sunscreen ( who has the time to lather themselves in such potions), and without the proper clothing when I was going to be outside for a long period of time.
It was always simple attire for me, such as Flip-flops, T-shirts, and shorts when on vacations; right?
Well, now, because of my stubbornness (stupidity?), I have to see my dermatologist for regular monitoring and treatments for my skin problems several times a year.
So, I’m writing this article with the aim of providing you with a few tips to help minimize the damages the Sun can do to your body while still enjoying the outdoors.
So, you ask yourself; Why do I and so many others, who know we’re damaging our bodies, keep ignoring the warnings and continually over-expose ourselves to the Sun?
Just Twenty minutes for a Sunburn
Under normal conditions, just 15-20 minutes of exposure to the Sun can damage bare, unprotected skin
The Immortality Factor
First of all, we humans, unless we already have some deadly disease, tend to consider ourselves to be immortal and if not immortal at least immune to diseases, poisons, physical damage and such.
It’s an ego thing, that logic and irrefutable statistical data cannot sway some people towards accepting reality. And everyone I know has had or still does suffer from this ego thing, to one degree or another.
You know people like this;
- Smokers who just refuse to be affected by the dangers of their nasty and deadly habit,
- Drinkers who think they have unique Livers that are immune to the amount of alcohol they consume,
- Overweight people who have no desire to punish themselves with a healthy diet and a regular exercise plan.
- and of course, we all tell ourselves that just one more deadly chemical loaded food, such as a cheeseburger and order of fries, will not affect our health at all.
Me? I was lucky (unlucky??) enough to have an epiphany and started living a healthier lifestyle after my Kidney failure and receiving a transplant over twenty years ago.
But sad to say, over this time, I have lost a number of; relatives, old friends and acquaintances, who believed in their personal immortality until their bodies suddenly succumbed to different fatal health problems.
OK, I know, you’ve heard enough preaching about things you already know, so the rest of this article will be devoted to the presentation of facts about Sun damage and things you can do to reduce this kind of damage.
The UV Index and what it means
The UV Index for an area of the world, simply put, is a projection of the expected level of Ultra-Violet ray exposure from the Sun that’s to be expected in a certain location at a certain day and time.
By the way, this projected peak UV Index number, for any day, is for the 4-hour period during the Sun’s peak position in the sky.
The technology of projecting the UV Index includes a number of factors, such as;
- the time of the day,
- the position of the Sun in the sky,
- Readings from UV measurement devices in the area,
- Ozone level projections for the area,
- the thickness of the local cloud cover, and
- existing air pollution levels, to name the major ones.
For reference, here are some examples of the potential range of UV levels;
- A Summer UV level in Antarctica might be as low as 1.5,
- a UV level in South Texas on a Sunny day might be 11.5,
- a UV measurement on top of the mountains in Hawaii might be as high as 20.
Obviously, knowing the UV Index when you are planning a day outside can be very useful for RV owners who want to plan a fun day outside and still avoid being exposed to peak UV radiation, as much as possible.
SPF is a multiplier
A product’s SPF rating is a multiplier, indicating how much longer the skin is protected by the product versus no protection. SPF-30 indicates that it will take 30 times longer for the skin to burn with the product, than without it.
Sunscreens and SPF, how good are they
So, how do you protect your body from Sun damage?
When you’re traveling around the country in your RV you will, of course, be exposed to the Sun and its damaging rays more often that when you’re in your home.
Whether you’re on a vacation or are a full-time traveler in your RV, most of the things you do, will be outside and thus exposing you to the Sun.
SPF? Just what is SPF, you might ask.
According to experts, it only takes about 15-20 minutes for bare unprotected skin to be burned by the Sun under normal conditions.
So, if the typical person put a sunscreen with an SPF of 10 onto one arm and nothing on the other arm, then where the unprotected arm might burn in 15 minutes, it should take ten times linger (or 150 minutes) for the other arm to develop the same burn.
Because of this, for the outdoors loving camper, it is very important for them to use the appropriate sunscreens on their body during the day.
For the diligent camper, there are a number of ways, in addition to sunscreens, for them to screen their body from the Sun’s rays, and here are a few of the most common ones;
- Wear Broad Brim hats to shade your face, head and neck.
- Wear long sleeve shirts, and long pants,
- Wear SPF rated clothing when possilbe,
- utilize shaded areas as much as possible.
- Use UV(A) and UV(B) rated sunglasses.
Of course, these are just a few of the things you can do to reduce your exposure to strong and damaging rays of the Sun, but always remember every little piece of protection helps.
The Cumulative Damage from the Sun
Sun damage to the skin includes the development of; Wrinkles, Leathery Skin, and Brown spots.
We should all understand and remember, the damage from the Sun to your body is cumulative.
Sure, today you went to the beach or pool and you had covered your body with an SPF-30 sunscreen and you felt good about yourself.
But, you probably already have accumulated some serious damaged to your skin when you were a teenager and ran around outside without any protection.
That damage has already been done, and it will never go away, and for the rest of your life, you can only add to your existing damage.
The Skin Cancer Foundation does recommend ways to repair some of the Sun damage already done, such as;
- Use a Sunscreen daily for at least 30-days to allow the skin time to repair itself to some degree,
- Exfoliate to remove dead skin and make the new skin look smoother,
- Moisturize your skin daily as this can help the body generate more collagen,
- Brown spots can be bleached to lighten them, and also
- the use of LED lightbulbs in your home generates lower levels of UV rays and allows the skin a chance to regenerate itself.
So, of course, you can still have a great time enjoying the outdoors and at your campsite without looking like a greased up, material-wrapped mummy hiding yourself from the Sun while everyone else is outside having a great time.
Your RV and your Campsite
One of the things an RV owner can do while camping is to take theses little steps and reduce the cumulative affects of direct exposure to sunshine. So, try these tips to make your campsite a more shady place for you.
- Try to select a campsite that has shade trees on it.
- Keep your RV Awning extended during daylight hours for the extra shade.
- Set up a large outdoor umbrella to shade your picnic table and eating area.
- Keep your RV “day shades” closed during the day to avoid direct sunlight in the RV.
- If you have trees at your campsite, use a tarp and rope to set up a shady area for everyone to be protected during the Sunny afternoon hours.
The point here is that every little action you take that blocks, filters or just reduces the level of sunshine your body is exposed to, is a good thing.
Wearing protective Clothing can help.
I, and so many of the people I talk to about protective clothing, feel that one of the problems with wearing protective clothing while in the Sun is just how ugly and uncomfortable most of these clothes happen to be.
And, if you look at most of the suggested protective clothing being offered on the market today, the designer obviously have style and looks as a priority far down their list of design standards.
First of all, any clothing provides some level of protection from the Sun, and there are some clothing manufacturers who specialize in providing clothing that are made to give specific levels of protection usually listed as having an SPF or UPF which is a measure designed for clothing.
Regardless of all of the technology involved in these specifications, you should also keep in mind that even a T-Shirt and a pair of Jeans gives an exceptional level of Sun protection.
Enjoy your Outdoor Activities, regardless.
And finally, we need to discuss all of those outside activities you and other RV travelers enjoy.
There isn’t much that you can do other than what we have suggested in this article other than to be aware.
Be aware of how long you’re going to be in the direct sunlight during each activity and if nothing else, enjoy your outside time, but at the same time, like I said, BE AWARE!
Every RV owner and their family have, at one time or another, ended up with a Sunburn. And this Sunburn was often bad enough for the person to spend the next couple of days out of the Sun as their body tried to heal itself.
But, the smart RV owner can take their family on a great vacation, enjoy the outdoors and still minimize the amount of Sun they are exposed to.
by Don Bobbitt, July, 2017
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Copyright, Don Bobbitt, July, 2017, All Rights Reserved.
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