Sun Poisoning Tips

Kenya is one of the best tourist destinations in Africa. It is popular for Nairobi – popularly known as the city in the sun because of the year round sunny weather. Many people enjoy the rare opportunity to soak up in the rays and that’s why they come here.

Truth is, the sunny warmth you can enjoy, but tanning is not a safe option! Any sun exposure enough to cause tanning will increase your risk of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Most skin cancers are the basal cell type, which, if caught early, are more of a nuisance than a life-threatening illness, but extreme tans and burning episodes when young are risks for developing melanoma, a frequently fatal cancer.

If you insist on sun-bathing, do so slowly, with the use of protective creams. This will allow the skin to “toughen up” to further damage.

Ultraviolet Light – Ultraviolet light is the spectrum of light just above the wavelengths which our eyes can recognize. It is the wavelength that causes most of our problems. Knowing the characteristics of ultraviolet light helps to understand how it causes problems.

UVB – UVB, although making up only about 10% of the UV light which reaches the earth’s surface, is the most important for causing burning and damage to the skin. It is filtered out by the atmosphere (especially in the ozone layer), but it is far more intense mid-day and nearer the equator (or in summer compared to winter). As you increase altitude, there is about 3% more UVB for every thousand feet elevation.

UVB, as all light, reflects from certain surfaces, and this must be taken into consideration – snow and ice reflect up to three quarters of the light which hits it, and water may reflect up to 100%! This is why being out on the water on a cloudy day carries such a high risk of sunburn – the infra-red (heat-associated) wavelengths are absorbed by the clouds, but not the UVB, which is also reflected. You don’t feel hot, but are being exposed to huge amounts of UVB!

UVA – UVA is the spectrum of ultraviolet light nearest to that which we can see. UVA, although it constitutes most of the ultraviolet light which reaches the earth’s surface, does not cause much injury to skin. It may, however, trigger an initial phase of redness in some people, and can be responsible for triggering phototoxic or photo allergic reactions associated with certain medications (see below) or illnesses such as Lupus. It may also play a large role in the photo aging process. Many (but not all) newer sunscreens protect against UVA for these reasons.

UVC UVC, although used in germicidal lamps, is of little consequence to humans due to its low energy and low penetration of skin.

Solutions when you’re coming here: Buy Enough Sunscreen

Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreens contain chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light at various spectrums. Sunscreens are rated by SPF, which is the relative time for developing redness after exposure to UVB of treated skin versus untreated skin – an SPF of fifteen means that for a given light condition it takes 15 times as long to develop redness with the screen as without.

In essence, it blocks about 94% of the UVB. One might assume that this would be plenty, but you must consider several factors: testing was done with more sunscreen applied than you may normally use. Sunscreen may wash or sweat off – use screen in a “waterproof” carrier if you will be in the water or sweating profusely. Reapply frequently, especially if getting in and out of the water a lot.

Physical Blockers

These consist of creams and suspensions such as zinc oxide which physically block ultraviolet light. These are usually opaque, sometimes brightly colored, and are now becoming available in a micronized form which is clear upon application.

You can read this article to learn more about this condition. Regardless of the scare, take advantage of the tour packages different companies’ offer to Kenya and have fun!