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A Camper's Guide to Skin Protection

While hiking, camping or enjoying other outdoor pursuits, the health of one's skin is potentially at risk. There are various threats in nature that can damage the skin to the point of mere irritation or health threatening disease. There are ways to can keep the risk of falling prey to these threats to a minimum. Before planning a hiking trek into nature or camping with the family, people should take the time to learn what dangers the outdoors can present to their skin. With this knowledge they are better able to take the appropriate actions and reduce or eliminate these threats and ailments.

Introduction to Common Ailments and Conditions

The sun poses some of the most common skin concerns that a person faces while camping or hiking. Because they are spending long periods of time beneath the sun, they are experiencing extended exposure to UV rays. Even on cloudy days, ultraviolet rays pose a danger to the skin. Increased exposure to these rays can elevate a person's risk of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure is also the cause of sunburn. Excessive heat from the sun may also lead to heat rash. Additionally, skin problems may also be minor and a result of a lack of moisture in the air or the environment. This can cause blemishes, dull skin or dryness.

Scratches and scrapes courtesy of nature are another problem for skin. Not only are they painful and unsightly, but they also leave the skin open to bacteria and infection. Certain plants that campers and nature lovers encounter may also be poisonous and can cause allergic reactions such as rashes, swelling and itching. Bug bites can quickly turn a person's time outdoors miserable. From mosquitoes to chiggers, insect bites may also cause extreme itching, swelling, and may even eventually lead to disease. Scratches, bug bites and exposure to poisonous plants leave campers vulnerable for infections such as Impetigo. This is an infection of the skin that occurs as a result of either Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus aureus coming into contact with irritated or broken skin. Campers must also be cautious of such bugs as ticks, which can do lasting harm if left untreated.

Tips for Skin Care

For people who have been unfortunate enough to encounter any of these skin ailments, first aid must be administered as quickly as possible. Aloe Vera or a moisturizing lotion applied to a sunburn can help to soothe the skin. For extreme discomfort acetaminophen or aspirin is helpful; however, aspirin should not be given to children. Applying yogurt over a sunburn may also bring relief if other options are not available; however, this can cause other problems as yogurt will likely attract insects. If stung by an insect, check the area of the sting to ensure that the stinger is not embedded into the skin. If there is no stinger, clean the area and add a cold compress on top. If the stinger is still in the skin it may be removed with a clean pair of tweezers in efforts to prevent further venom from entering the body. The cold compress should then be applied and antihistamines given. If the stung person has an allergy it will be necessary to seek medical attention as quickly as possible after administering first aid. With cuts and scrapes it is important to keep the area clean. Rinse the area with clean bottled water to remove any dirt or debris from the wound. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the area with a bandage. Keep the area clean and covered at all times.

Calamine lotion, baking soda or a barrier cream should be kept in the first aid kit for people who have come into contact with poisonous plants. These will help treat the rash and ease some of the discomfort caused by itching. If a person gets Impetigo it can take up to ten days after contact before a blister appears. If still camping, cover the area to prevent spreading the bacteria to others. Medical treatment will be necessary however as antibiotics are needed. For people who start to break out and develop blemishes on the skin, simple remedies can be employed to help fix the problem. For example, a dab of one's toothpaste can help to dry out a blemish, as will putting a small amount of paste made from a crushed aspirin.

Tips for Protection

The best way to keep skin healthy while vacationing outdoors is to prevent skin problems from occurring in the first place. When it comes to avoiding sun related skin damage, prevention comes in the form of sunscreen protection and by dressing in a way that blocks the sun. Even on cloudy days, wearing sunscreen that has a SPF, or sun protection factor, of 15 or more is the first step. Staying within an area that is protected from the sun during the mid-day hours when the sun is at its fullest and wearing a hat to protect one's head, neck and face will also help lessen sun exposure. A person can also moisturize his or her skin while getting the sun protection that they need. To help keep the skin moist use a moisturizer that contains sunscreen and eliminate two problems in one. Because of insects, it is advisable to use moisturizers and sunscreens that are unscented. To prevent blemishes, it is important to continue with regular hygiene methods and keep one's face clean. This is especially important because of the dirt, dust, and grime associated with camping and hiking. Facial cleansing cloths are convenient, however, an environmentally friendly soap is also a good choice and does not create additional trash that will need to be properly disposed of. A simple way to prevent unwanted blemishes is to avoid touching the face unnecessarily, which transfers the oils and dirt from one's fingers onto the face.

Wearing clothes such as pants and long-sleeved shirts will help to minimize the bites and stings from bugs. Dressing this way isn't always practical however, particularly during the summer months. Applying insect repellent or lemon eucalyptus oil is yet another method of keep insects away. Learning to recognize poisonous plants will also help to reduce accidental contact and the resulting reactions. When hiking or walking on uneven terrain, using caution can help prevent falls that result in scrapes and scratches. As with insects and sun protection, covering exposed areas of the body when weather allows will also help prevent some scrapes. Avoiding contact with people who have blisters or other sores, can help prevent the transmission of bacteria that may enter scratches or broken, irritated skin.