Dangers of Sun Exposure/Dehydration and Ways to Protect Yourself
There’s nothing more refreshing than getting out on the water here in St. Pete when it’s hot. But the Florida sun is intense, and before you know it, it can go from pleasurable to problematic. If you’re headed out for a day on the water, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared for a day of intense sun exposure.
The body needs to maintain water balance for its very survival. Considering the human body is about 75 percent water, hydration is critical. Especially when you’re out in the heat of the day in the Florida sun, you’re losing fluid through your sweat, which can further lead to dehydration. Inadequate hydration can cause electrolyte imbalance and can bring on sunstroke more quickly.
The “eight cups a day” adage is not really based on science. So how much water should you target? This depends on your individual body, your activity, and the environment. While there’s no specific agreed-upon figure, a common suggestion is to take the number of half your body weight and consume that amount of ounces over the course of the day. But this is a very broad standard and may not be enough when you’re out in the sun fishing all day. It’s better to err on the side of more than less when it comes to water consumption to ensure that you’re adequately hydrated while out on the water.
It’s also important to remember that drinking alcohol isn’t the same as drinking water. While having a few beers out on the boat may sound like a good idea, alcohol acts as a diuretic and vasodilator, interfering with the body’s thermoregulation abilities and often making the body feel even hotter. Alcohol is also notoriously the cause of many boat crashes and drownings. Approximately 70 percent of teen and adult water recreation deaths annually involve alcohol consumption.
Keeping Safe in the Sun
From a skin cancer perspective, we’ve long known about the dangers of too much sun exposure. The American Cancer Society also has a lot of good information on its site about keeping safe and hydrated. They’ve even developed a handy catchphrase to help remember them: slip, slop, slap, and wrap:
- Slip on a shirt
- Slop on some sunscreen
- Slap on a hat
- Wrap on some sunglasses
Slipping on a Shirt
Years ago, it was common for anglers to go out on the water all day without protective apparel, but we now know how dangerous that can be. Shirts made of UV- protective fabrics can now offer serious sun protection. These new fabrics are moisture-wicking, lightweight, and comfortable to wear all day, even in the hot sun.
Slopping on the Sunscreen
When you’re out on the water all day, you need serious protection. Sunscreen is crucial. Know what your sunscreen rating is and how much protection you can count on. Ratings are based on the amount of UV protection you’re getting. If your sunscreen has an SPF of 30, it allows 1/30th of the sun’s radiation to get through, providing 30 times the protection of unprotected skin. Remember to reapply it periodically since protection is usually only good for a few hours and can deteriorate with sweat and water exposure.
Slapping on the Hat
Especially with the reflection of the water, you’ll need added protection on exposed skin you can’t hit with sunscreen. While some people do just fine with standard ball caps, others opt for added protection of wide-brimmed hats, fold-down neck covers, sun masks, and neck gaiters. You also may consider hats with darker brim undersides that will reflect less light and let you see better out on the water.
Wrapping on the Sunglasses
While eye protection is often an afterthought, especially out on the water, you are getting direct sun exposure in addition to the reflection of the sun’s rays. Most anglers understand the importance of sunglasses and typically opt for polarized lenses that add clarity and cut down on glare from the water.
When searching for sunglasses to wear out in the intense Florida sun, look for
- 100 percent UV protection that filters out the rays that damage the eyes
- Wraparound styles that can further reduce the amount of UV exposure
- Polarization that reduces glare and aids eye comfort
- Enough tinting – while color is a personal preference, you’ll want to choose tints that subdue the intense glare from the reflected sun off the water.
Let Reef & Reel Help
When you’re headed out on our waters, bring plenty of water, wear protective clothing and eyewear, wear sunscreen, and pay close attention to what your body is telling you. The St. Pete outfitters at Reef & Reel have anything you may need to help you stay sun-safe and hydrated. Stop by and see our extensive selection of protective clothing and sunglasses that will keep you looking good while remaining comfortable and safe for a day out on the water.