Sunday, 3 February 2013

The effects of exposure to ultraviolet light

It is extremely important to protect the skin against the ultraviolet sunlight that climbers are exposed to while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Both too little and too much exposure to ultraviolet light is detrimental to the human being. On Mt. Kilimanjaro there is normally constant exposure to the sun and the higher you go up the mountain and above cloud cover, the more intense the exposure.

Exposure induces production of Vitamin D, which is associated with many health benefits including the maintenance of healthy bones, and regulation of the immune system. Too little exposure will cause Vitamin D deficiencies while too much exposure will produce sunburn, and even skin cancer.

Before I began climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro I assumed that sunburn does not affect dark skinned individuals. You learn fast on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Having not covered myself adequately during my first climb, I exposed both my face and ears for prolonged periods and a few days after the descent part of my skin on my face and ears (which are not that big and could have been easily covered by my balaclava) turned dark and became wrinkled and appeared to have encountered the temperatures of a barbecue fire.

The positive side when you forget to adequately cover yourself is that after several more days the affected skin dries and peels off and the new look makes one younger than his/her age, in my case ten years younger than I actually am. In addition to protecting the skin by clothing it is also important to apply sunscreen on the parts of the body that are exposed to sunlight, including the hands, arms, and back of the neck.

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