We all love to enjoy outdoors when the sun is shining. For good health our body craves natural sunlight to prevent depression in the winter and to activate vitamin D. However there’s a downside for outdoor enthusiasts who spend many hours hiking, running, cycling and climbing —unless they’re very careful they experience a higher incidence of skin damage and skin cancers.

With more of us traveling to more exotic locations the outbreak of insect-borne diseases such as Malaria and Zika has become something that we should be increasingly aware of. These infectious pathogens can be carried and transmitted via blood sucking insects such as fleas, fly’s, Mosquitoes, and the arachnid tick.

Another cause of skin discomfort is blisters. Blistered feet can cause pain and suffering with each step giving you bad memories to take home from your adventure.

Although sometimes unavoidable blisters, bites, stings and sunburn can be generally be avoided by taking these simple steps to help prevent them.

Foot Care & Blisters

Blisters are caused by friction, heat and sweating. Once a blister occurs it can be painful and debilitating. Blister prevention is the key to making your walking experience much more enjoyable.

All boots require some breaking in. Leather boots in particular tend to be quite stiff when they are new. It will take some time for the leather to flex freely and evenly. If you don`t break your boots in properly it may result in painful and debilitating blisters. For this reason, we strongly recommend that your first walks are short ones. Better still, wear them around the house or down to the shops, before progressing to a short day walks.

Foot Sydney

Another factor in preventing blisters that is often over looked is the importance of quality socks. Sock technology has come a long way from your standard wool or cotton blend so look for a sock that has a combination of merino & synthetic (or 100% synthetic) materials that will help your feet breath and wick moisture away from the skin.

By using the preventatives above you should come away blister free. However it’s also important to also carry 1st aid supplies with you on your walk, stop and apply as soon as you feel a hot spot to prevent a blister from forming.

Sun Protection

UV rays cause sunburn and skin cancer by damaging skin’s cellular DNA. One bad sunburn in your youth, or five burns any time in your life, more than doubles your chance of developing melanoma later in life (skincancer.org) and clearly avoiding getting sunburn is a great way to maintain healthy skin. It is recommended that you avoid exercising (and seek shade) between 10am and 4pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Unfortunately these times are when most outdoor enthusiasts tend to participate in their activities.

Sun Protection

If participating in your outdoor activity during hot, sunny days the use of lightweight, light-coloured clothing and a broad brimmed hat combined with plenty of sunscreen on both exposed and unexposed skin is our best recommendation and using the higher the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) in your sunscreen, the better. You should reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours and more if you’ve been swimming or sweating.

Bites and Stings

There are many methods of keeping the micro predators at bay, saving us grief, but first we have to understand what attracts them to us.

Mosquitoes have highly developed receptors that they use to detect both carbon dioxide (from our breath), humidity (sweat and body warmth) and particular chemicals our skin emits. These chemical ‘scents’ are what mosquitoes and other insects can lock onto and zero in straight for our vulnerable flesh.

Covering your skin with long sleeves and pants is a very affective method to keep the insects away and can be used in combination with chemical compounds such as DEET ( N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), Permethrin and Natural Repellents can be used  to mask these odours and build a ‘barrier’ to prevent these vapours from attracting these tiny villains. Despite the name, repellents don’t always actually repel but rather mask the unique signals that attract blood-suckers.

Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical synthesised from Pyrethrin a type of organic compound naturally derived from the flowers of some species of Chrysanthemum, that demonstrate extremely effective natural insecticidal properties. Permethrin is often employed in both personal insect repellents and in soaks or spray treatments designed for use with clothing or fabrics.

‘Natural Repellents’ will repel mosquitoes, but they require a much higher frequency of reapplication (at least every 2 hours) and in much higher concentrations than DEET or permethrin based treatments.

Whilst not the most pleasant feeling/smelling DEET is definitely one of the most effective personal insect repellents available on the market and in higher concentrations can be effective for up to 15 hours and is water sweat and rub resistant.

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Despite its overall effectiveness there is some concern over the safety of DEET so care must be taken to prevent applying DEET based repellent to the face or hands especially those of children. Despite the caution you should exercise whilst using DEET (and all other insect repellents for that matter) it is wise to understand that DEET is highly regarded and recommended by both the World Health Organization and CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) as the most effective personal barrier to apply against, pathogen carrying pests in high risk areas. 

As with most products available on the market, if you follow the directions specific from the manufacturer of your product you should be safe, and assuming you have armed yourself with the right insect repellent for the job you should survive your hike, trip or barbecue, insect and deadly pathogen free.

Finally, don’t forget one last item that’s important for good skin and overall health, and that is vital when exercising; fluid intake. Be sure to stay hydrated with water throughout your activity as well as after. The amount of liquid you drink directly affects the health of your skin. One sign of dehydration is if you press on your skin with your finger and it doesn’t spring back.

 

About The Author

Dave Casey

Dave has worked as an International Expedition Leader and in Outdoor Education for over 15 years. He has extensive travel and guiding experience in Australia, NZ, Asia, South/North America and Europe. In his spare time Dave is a keen bushwalker, mountain biker and climber while also dabbling in some mountaineering and sea kayaking. He is currently working at Paddys as the National Account Manager, to fund all of the above.

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