It is the start of another boating season. Boats are in the water, plans for cruises are set, and we are all ready for some FUN IN THE SUN … Stop!!! Let’s not allow our enthusiasm cause us to overlook the sun and heat related risks we are sure to encounter. Sunburn, dehydration, heat rash, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke lurk over the horizon. Be mindful that too much sunshine can ruin your day. Take preventive measures that guard against the risks.
Sunburn … Sunburn is a form of radiation burn that affects living tissue, such as skin, it is the result of over-exposure.
SYMPTOMS … If you are boating on a sunny day keep an eye out for pinkness or redness in your, or a friend’s complexion. If your skin is warm or hot to the touch, which is another warning sign of impending sunburn. If you don’t get out of the sun when you have these symptoms, serious sunburn with pain, tenderness, and itching will result. You may also experience swelling along with the development of blisters, a headache, fever, nausea, and fatigue.
TREATMENT … When sunburns do occur apply cool wet towels to the exposed skin. Cooling is very important. Aloe Vera lotions are also a popular choice for cooling the skin. Be wary of anything that contains perfumes, alcohol, or wax; these will only irritate the burn area. Stay clear of ointments that trap heat. Also, don’t pop blisters or peel skin. This can result in scarring or infection.
Dehydration … Remaining hydrated when boating in hot weather is essential. A person’s body can become dehydrated in several ways. Perspiration evaporating from the skin, respiration exiting the lungs, and urination collectively contributes to dehydration.
SYMPTOMS … Dizziness, dry mouth, headache, difficulty in breathing, tingling in the arms and legs, skin color turning bluish, indistinct speech, inability to walk, plus leg and stomach cramps are all symptoms of dehydration.
TREATMENT … A good offense is the best defense against dehydration. Be particularly watchful of others on the boat during times of intense heat. Drink plenty of chilled fluids. Take breaks from the sun by sitting in the shade of the hardtop, or Bimini. Open all windows in the cabin, or run the air conditioner if you have one. In extreme cases, get underway to create a breeze when the air is still, or return to port. Also, avoid drinks that induce urination. Sports drinks are better.
Heat Rash (Prickly Heat) … Heat rash is prevalent in hot humid climates, in hot spaces aboard ship, in factories, and in poorly ventilated homes or apartments. It affects adults and children alike. This is especially true on hot days when the weather is humid because high humidity prevents perspiration from evaporating (evaporating sweat is the body’s primary method of cooling).
SYMPTOMS … These range from superficial blisters to deep, red lumps.
TREATMENT … If you are on a large boat, shower in cool water then let your skin air-dry. If your skin is itchy use a cool compress. If you are bringing a baby onboard a smaller boat it is wise to put extra bottles of water in the cooler. Remember to avoid oils and creams.
Heat Cramps … Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions that are caused when the body loses excessive salt and water, mostly through perspiration. Heat cramps may occur during heat exhaustion, or when body temperature is normal. Recently stressed or injured muscles are prone to developing heat cramps.
SYMPTOMS … Heat Cramp symptoms include brief, but very painful muscle cramps. Once they start, spasms or involuntarily jerks are possible. Heat cramps can occur during exercise or work in a hot environment. They can also begin a few hours later. Heat cramps usually occur in muscles that are fatigued by heavy work, such as calves, thighs, and shoulders.
TREATMENT … Heat cramps are treated by placing the victim in a cool place. Encouraging the victim to lie down in a comfortable position, and offer him or her a cool drink to replace lost body fluids. Beverages containing electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Smart Water are helpful so long as salt is not an ingredient. Do not treat muscle cramps with heat pads or massages.
Heat Exhaustion … Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid environment where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Fluid loss can result in a decrease of blood-flow to vital organs. During heat exhaustion, sweat does not evaporate as it should, often because of high humidity or when too many layers of clothing are worn.
SYMPTOMS … A person collapses and sweats profusely. The victim has pale skin, a pounding heart, nausea, headache, and acts restless.
TREATMENT … First aid treatment should be provided immediately followed by rapid removal (in a litter, if possible) of the patient to a location that can provide proper medical care.
Heat Stroke … Heat stroke is a major medical emergency that results from a complete breakdown of the body’s ability to cool itself. Also known as sun stroke, the onset of heat stroke is very rapid.
SYMPTOMS … Red skin, hot and dry to the touch, temperature above 105° F, headache, weak and rapid pulse, confusion, violence, lack of coordination, delirium, and unconsciousness.
TREATMENT … Heat stroke is the most serious of all heat disorders and needs immediate treatment.