Is it hot enough for you? Our tropical, equatorial February sun is relentless, especially between the hours of 9am and 4pm. At midday, it hits with intensity, searing your skin and sapping your strength the longer you are exposed to it.
We are here because we love the sunshine, the warmth, the fact that we never really get cold, but caution and discretion are key when the sky is clear and blue with nary a cloud to briefly block the heat emanating from that immense ball of plasma 93 million miles away.
The following are a few tips on how to coexist in a healthy manner with Mr. Sun
1. The Shade is Your Friend
If you find yourself out and about during the peak hours of sun, look for the shaded areas. In town, walk on the side of the street where buildings cast the best shadow. If you run into an acquaintance on the street and they insist on having a conversation while standing in the sunlight, take them by the hand, or elbow, or scruff of the neck, and guide them to the nearest shaded spot. At the beach, hang under the trees– green is good– or get a giant umbrella.
2. Choose your hours wisely
The first 2 hours and the last 2 hours of sun are the best time to be out. Early morning and late afternoon sun gives all the benefits without risk of frying your skin. Use your shadow as a guide– the longer shadow you cast, the safer the sun. If you don’t see your shadow, that means either the sun is directly overhead and time to head for cover, or you are a vampire.
3. Hydrate throughout the day
Drink plenty of water, agua de pipa, iced tea, and refrescos that aren’t overloaded with sugar. Keeping hydrated with liquids does not mean drinking beers, pina coladas, etc. Drinking alcoholic beverages in these conditions causes dehydration. If you must drink alcohol during the heat of the day (and some of us must), drink at least a full glass of water with each beer or shot.
4. Don’t Sunbathe (Especially Caucasians)
The whiter your skin, the more you should take heed. The days of slathering on some baby oil and laying for hours in the sun until you bake your skin to a fine golden brown have passed. Accept your pallid complexion and do your skin cells a favor. The word sunbathe itself is an oxymoron within a compound word. A more accurate word would be sunfry. If you must go out in the sun during its peak, coat yourself in the highest number sunblock you can find.
5. Take a Siesta
The closer you are to the equator, the more a siesta makes good sense. Those old photos of beat looking Mexicans crouched down and resting in the shadows of their oversized sombreros suddenly hit home when you are out in the same equatorial noon sun. That drowsiness that accompanies a combination of a full belly after lunch and the mid-day heat is best handled with a nap. And studies of shown that taking a regular siesta has been associated with a 40 percent reduction in coronary mortality, possibly due to reduced cardiovascular stress mediated by daytime sleep.
6. Dress Appropriately
Hat, sunglasses, shirt, knee-length shorts, bandana to cover the neck, are all advised if out in peak hours. If you are at the beach at this time, use your towel like a burnoose; Cover your head and let the towel drape around your face when walking along the ocean’s edge. At that moment you will understand why Bedouins dress like they do while traipsing in the deserts of Arabia. The sun is our friend, the source of energy for our lives here on earth, worshiped by many, but just remember: Even the best things in life are best experienced in moderation.