Protect Yourself

We’re out there to have fun, right? Injury and illness spoil the fun – protect yourself and those you love.

A wide brimmed hat will protect your face and neck.
A wide brimmed hat will protect your face and neck.
© Bill Parks

The Sun
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following guidelines for protecting yourself from the harmful affects of the sun. Remember, despite the hype of advertising and popular culture, there is no such thing as a “healthy tan”. Tanning is the body’s response to skin damage caused by the sun’s rays.

The short-term impact of over exposure is a painful sunburn; the long-term danger is permanent skin damage and possible cancer. Studies show that even a few serious sunburns can increase your risk of getting skin cancer in the future. Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is responsible for the damage. It’s not in the visible spectrum and clouds don’t completely block it. You get the most intense dose of dangerous sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., a time when you’re most likely to be out boating. Sunlight bouncing off reflective surfaces like water, sand and snow can intensify the sun’s impact.

Protect yourself with sunscreen and sun protective clothing. The degree of protection in sunscreens is expressed as their sun protection factor (SPF) and the Federal Trade Commission carefully monitors advertising claims. Only use products with a minimum of SPF 15 protection.

Not all sunscreens are created equal. They have different ingredients and none of them will protect you against all of the sun’s rays. Apply often, even the water-resistant ones, and especially after swimming and vigorous exercise. And don’t forget to protect your lips with a sunscreen product.

Sun protective clothing is another option for foiling the sun. These fabrics have a tighter weave or knit and are usually darker in color. NRS MicroLite and HydroSilk garments are fine examples, with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) ratings of 45 and 50+, respectively. For example, with MicroLite fabrics, only 1/45th of the sun’s rays will penetrate the material. There’s a slight reduction in UPF when a sun protective fabric gets wet. Your typical t-shirt has an UPF rating substantially lower than the recommended UPF 15. A hat is another important article of clothing that can protect you from the sun. The best sun hat is one with a wide brim. If you choose to wear a ball cap, protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.

Special note for young children - keep them out of the sun as much as possible, get them a wide-brim hat and use kid-friendly sunscreen on all exposed skin. And NRS Youth HydroSilk Shirts provide UPF 50+ sun protection - so much better than chasing them down to reapply the sunscreen!

Sunglasses protect your precious eyes from the sun’s rays. Buy glasses that meet the standards of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). They will have ANSI Z80.3 on the label (Smith Sunglasses meet this standard). The color of the lenses doesn’t affect protection and larger lenses or wrap-around glasses help block out the light coming in around the edges.

Don't drink the water.
Don't drink the water.
© Dan Allred
Water – the Good & the Bad
Our bodies consist of 55-60% water. Loss of even 10% of this from dehydration can pose a serious health risk. The experts recommend you drink two quarts of water a day for normal activity and more than double that when you’re exercising heavily.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking, and drink frequently. The experts disagree on whether sports drinks really help, but you can’t beat water for staying hydrated.

Many waterways are polluted these days. If you can’t carry all the drinking water you need, bring a water filter. These will take out the parasites, like giardia and bacteria, such as e-coli. The illnesses caused by these beasties can be quite serious; don’t take a chance.

Plants and Animals
Learn to recognize poison ivy/poison oak, if it grows in your area. The irritants in these plants are contained in oils in the leaves and berries. If you do get into a patch, wash the affected skin quickly with soap and water and get out of any contaminated clothes. Remember, if Fido gets it on his fur and you pet him, the oils can transfer to your skin.

Many of our waterways flow through areas with poisonous snakes. Watch where you put your hands and feet when moving around on shore. It’s bad karma to kill them, they were there first.

If anyone in your party has severe allergy to the stings of insects, such as bees and wasps, be sure to have a sting kit along and know how to use it. They’re a prescription item but worth adding to the medical kit. Many more people in the US die from insect stings than from snakebites.

Be Prepared
Many accidents and injuries happen in camp and on shore. Carry a good medical kit and learn how to use it. The Red Cross and other organizations teach first aid and CPR classes. Bring all the protective gear necessary for the boating you do and use it! For example, just having the PFD along won’t save you; you’ve got to wear it.

Watch out for each other and Boat Safe. See you on the water!