The summer is once again upon us and most of us love the sun, whether we are going to the beach or the bush, but remember Africa is not for sissies.
Be a sissie and slap on the sunscreen, put on your hat and slip on some long sleeves. Always be prepared for the unexpected when you take on mama Africa’s sun.
THE HOT AND THE SHORT
We all know that we should not embark on a walking trail without a bottle of water in your backpack, but this also applies when you are in your vehicle searching for those elusive birds or animals to tick the checklist. As soon as you start feeling thirsty you are becoming dehydrated. Remember to consume enough fluids even if you are not very active.
I always have to keep an eye on myself to consume enough fluids, especially when we are travelling, as consuming fluids while travelling brings on other interesting experiences when using public toilet facilities. The long and the short is that an adult person should consume four to six liters of water per day (including those in foods) to keep the body properly hydrated and healthy. Remember in extreme conditions you have to up your consumption of fluids drastically. We found that in Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, being on the equator where humidity is very high every day, you sweat a lot and we easily consumed up to 10 litres of water per day to keep our hydration levels up to standard and to avoid running into health problems. Occasionally we did miss our liquid intake targets and like clockwork we ran into health issues!
Also take cognisance that the elderly is more susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration. As we age the skin gets thinner so sunburn and skin damage will happen a lot quicker. Be on the lookout for the symptoms and act quickly.
TELL TALE SIGNS TO NOTE
So what are the signs of dehydration?
My first signs are normally a headache accompanied by a lethargic feeling. Signs vary from person to person, but dark yellow urine and a skin that do not return quickly to the original smooth position when pinched and dark circles or puffy skin under the eyes are all indicators of note.
HOW TO PREVENT IT
Wear a hat with a wide brim that provides shade to sensitive areas like your nose, cheekbones and ears. My nose is my problem area for sunburn, but it is not always easy to protect it fully unless you want to look like the famous cricketer, Allan Donald.
Wear good quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. My Diesel sunglasses has served me well on numerous trips in Africa and Asia.
If you turn from a white crab to a red crayfish from a little bit of sun, slap on the sunscreen and wear thin breathable (i.e. cotton) long sleeve shirts. For some it may look silly, but it is highly effective!
Remember to cover your feet or slap on some sunscreen, especially when you are on a boat on the water. Hubby turned from crab to crayfish while on a dhow in Mozambique and learnt this lesson the hard way!
Seek some shade during the heat of the day between 11:00-15:00. Take a nap, read a book, sit under a tree, go to a shop and buy your food for the night, do whatever your fancy is for that four hours of the day. That is when the sun’s rays are the most dangerous.
Damage to the skin caused by the sun is cumulative and you will only discover the damage in later years.
Keep rehydration sachets such as Rehydrate in your medical kit. In Africa you will find it almost anywhere, but if you cannot get hold of it concoct your own, like the locals. The recipe helped me out of some difficult situations in the past:
1 x tin of Sprite
1 x teaspoon of salt
Let stand until salt is dissolved and drink frequently