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Here comes the summer sun - advice about protecting yourself from Thailand's summer sun.

"If you think the summer sun is too hot, just remember you don't have to shovel it." Bob Dylan.

An expert, according to most dictionaries, is a person who is highly skilled in a particular field. I prefer the description by Danish physicist, and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, who says "an expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field."

Hardly a day passes but the media trots out an expert on virtually any given subject. Global warming is currently attracting more "expert comment" than most topics, and I don't know about you, but I don't need some lab rat telling me that summer is here, and it is hot!

It is apparently easier for scientists to predict the Earth's average surface temperature than to say whether or not it will rain in Glasgow today; take it from me, it will!

Some warn that the Arctic and Antarctic Ice Sheets are melting at an alarming rate, while others point out that if the Greenland Ice Sheet actually melted, and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet slipped into the ocean, sea levels would rise no higher than ten metres. Suffice it to say that we are certainly in for a hotter summer than last year, but if you are planning to open a surfboarding outlet in Chiang Mai, I'd give it a tad more consideration.

That said the question remains: how can we enjoy all this summer sunshine in safety? Without wishing to blind you with science, I feel duty bound to point out that in recent years the D.C.S. factor in both residents and tourists has been falling dramatically. Better known as Dog Common Sense, this phenomenon is in danger of extinction.
Every summer we see scantily dressed ladies window-shopping around town in the midday heat; men downing cleansing ales by the swimming pool, treating with disdain the shade offered by nearby sun umbrellas.

Why is it, do you imagine, that companies making suntan products have in recent years been increasing the sun protection factor in their oils, creams and lotions?

Images of sun protectionWho mentioned litigation? True, they do not wish to follow the tobacco companies down that road, but perhaps it is more that they wish to protect their customers from harmful ultra-violet rays. How many commercials do we see these days encouraging us to get a "healthy tan?" I rest my case. Maybe the government should take the lead with a new summer health campaign: "Don't Get Browned Off in Thailand."

Let's get back to the old D.C.S. factor. It makes sense to protect your skin from harmful rays, and there are several ways this can be achieved without you emulating this city's street sweepers, who dress like beekeepers to protect themselves from the summer sunshine.
The head is very vulnerable and should be protected by a sun hat, baseball cap or a simple scarf. Whether white-water rafting, golfing, elephant trekking or simply strolling through the city, protect your head from the heat of the sun and avoid a nasty case of sunstroke. Sunglasses tend to be worn more as a fashion item today, but a good pair is essential for protecting your eyes from the sun's glare, especially if you are on or near the water.

Cotton clothing is much healthier to wear than synthetic material as it allows heat to escape. Even if you have brought few clothes in your luggage, Chiang Mai is awash in outlets selling loose and highly fashionable cotton clothes at reasonable prices.

The ladies have the best of it in this regard, willing as they are to fly in the face of fashion trends and to don kaftans and loose-fitting ankle-length pants. The men tend to be more conservative in the main and can often be seen in sweat-stained shirts and shorts. Go on lads, get with the programme and pull on those mandarin-style cotton shirts over a sarong. The further outside the city you go, the more local lads you will see dressed in this way. They live in this heat the year round. Take note.

Try to plan your day around the strength of the sun the way locals do in any tropical climate. Early starts are best for trekking, golfing, river-rafting and such pursuits. Get into the habit of taking long lunches in cool surroundings, and use the post lunch hours to take a siesta; or if away from your accommodation get into the shade and chill out.

Your skin is the most expensive and long-lasting suit you will ever possess; protect it accordingly. Use high-factor sun-block, especially if fair skinned. Those looking for a tan can easily achieve this in stages by reducing the sun protection factor used in the course of your holiday. After-sun creams and lotions are not for cases of sunburn, but to keep the skin moisturized and supple. Should you suffer a case of sunburn there are many treatments, such as calamine lotion that should be applied as soon as possible. A browse through one of the many pharmacies in town is time well spent at the start of your holiday. See what products are available, and if going off on a trek for a few days, stock up on the sun protection and sunburn care products before you set off.

Your water intake is much more important in the summer months than at any other time of the year. Get into the daily habit of sipping cool, not cold water at regular intervals. The body uses between 1 and 1.02 quarts of water per hour; keep sipping on that bottle. Don't drink water from taps or mountain streams. Bottled water can be bought almost anywhere; just remember to check the seal if purchased in a rural village.

Dehydration can sneak up on you with little or no symptoms at first, and gulping down pints of water when you realize that something is amiss is far too late. Get into the habit of topping up your water intake on a regular basis, especially when out in the open or taking part in strenuous activities.

A cold beer is great; two or three could be dangerous in this heat. Alcohol dehydrates the body at an alarming rate and should be kept to a minimum during daylight hours, especially when outdoors. Keeping cool will ensure a great holiday in northern Thailand.


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