STAYING SAFE ON HOLIDAY
Every destination and every surf break has its own set of hazards, some pretty innocuous, some potentially serious. Here are a few tips to stay safe and healthy when you’re away from home.
One thing easily forgotten (at your peril!) when going abroad is travel insurance. Make sure that you organise this well before you go, and confirm – in writing if necessary – that the policy covers you for surfing. Also check it covers travel delays, cancellations, curtailments, legal expenses, legal support, personal liability and the financial backup of missed and cancelled departures.
Research companies that have good reputations, and if you need to make a claim keep the receipts of everything you needed to buy (especially medicines or other medical supplies). Get the receipts signed by a doctor or other official person if possible, keep them safe.
Arrange to have vaccinations at least six weeks before you leave, as they may need time to become effective. Your doctor will tell you which jabs are needed for your destination.
Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever can be contracted via mosquito (and other insect) bites, and these can become life-threatening illnesses if left untreated. Some species of mosquito have built up a natural immunity to DEET products, so alternative repellents such as Incognito (which uses powerful, natural ingredients such as citronella and bergamot oil) are becoming more popular.
Use the following tips to avoid being bitten in the first place:
• Always sleep under a mosquito net at night; get one with as fine a mesh as possible.
• Wear long, light-coloured clothing (mozzies are attracted to darker clothing).
• Avoid hanging around near bodies of still water, especially in the evening.
• Wash thoroughly and be as odour-free as possible.
• Olive oil works as a good alternative if you run out of mozzie spray.
The chances of catching tropical diseases and ailments can be greatly reduced by practicing good hygiene and sanitation. Only drink bottled or boiled water, or use water purification tablets. Only consume food that you’re certain is safe to eat – if in doubt, stick to the old adage, ‘Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it’. And keep your food prep areas, water supply, clothing, sheets and living areas clean.
Nothing sucks more than arriving at your dream destination, paddling out for a long session, getting the most intense sunburn you’ve ever had, then spending the next week
sitting in the shade. Follow these tips to protect your skin and maximise your time in the waves:
• Surf early and late to avoid the hottest part of the day, from 11am to 3pm. Many places are affected by onshore sea breezes during this period anyway, so you probably won’t be missing much.
• Be aware that you still need to use suncream on cloudy days. Thin clouds do nothing but scatter the sun’s UV light and you can still burn easily.
• Bring a decent pair of sunglasses and a hat. Bring longsleeved shirts and lightweight trousers if you expect to be exposed to the sun for a prolonged period.
• Beware of suncreams that claim to be waterproof and aren’t – stick to established brands if you’re unsure. If you’re fair-skinned go for the maximum protection factor, and consider putting sunblock / zinc cream on top to make sure you’re fully covered.
• Think about the areas of your body that get exposed. It’s not just your face, neck and arms that get blasted by the rays on a sunny day in the waves, you should also apply suncream to your lower back, your legs (especially the calves), feet, ears and hands.
• Re-apply suncream after a session to replenish any that was washed or rubbed off while you were in the water.
• If you do get burned, apply aloe vera onto the areas which are most affected. Wear loose-fitting clothing over the redness, take cool showers, and use a cool damp cloth moistened with cold water and skimmed milk (in a 4:1 ratio) to soothe the burn.
Sunstroke – or heatstroke as it’s also known – is a serious condition you can face when dealing with extreme or prolonged heat. It happens when your body struggles to regulate its temperature at normal levels, leaving your major organs at risk. If you feel weak during or after a surf, replenish lost fluids straight away. Failure to do this can lead to heat exhaustion, which in turn can result in heatstroke.
Sunstroke is defined by a body temperature in excess of 40ºC (104ºF). Reducing your core temperature is critical in this situation. This can be done by removing clothing, immersing yourself in cool water, using ice packs, drinking lots of water, and finding the shade and ventilation necessary to drop your body temperature back down to normal.
CUTS AND ABRASIONS
In tropical countries, it’s vitally important that you treat cuts carefully since there’s a higher risk of infection (bacteria love warm environments).
• Clean the wound thoroughly using plenty of fresh clean water, and carefully pick out any pieces of dirt or coral using tweezers. Dry the wound with a sterile pad and apply antiseptic liquid or ointment such as Bacitracin.
• Dress the wound with gauze and keep it clean.
• Change the dressing at least every three days.
• Yellow pus, soreness or redness indicate that the wound is infected. Clean it out again and apply antiseptic. If the infection persists, go to a doctor or hospital. This is an excerpt from Surf Travel: The Complete Guide, available from the SurfGirl Beach Boutique.