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What It's Like Going Hiking With a Sun Allergy

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I love hiking. My ultimate happy place is the summit of the Empire Bluff trail in Sleeping Bear National Park.

Unfortunately, hiking doesn’t always love me back.

I’ve learned that covering is easier than sunscreen — so I wear UPF 50+ gear while I hike, and only apply sunscreen on my face, neck and hands as a backup. I use LaRoche Posay SPF 60 combined with Neutrogena Broad Spectrum 100+. I use Under Armor Heat Gear tights to prevent heat exhaustion and typically wear their Pro Cool line tops for the same reason. I’m too small for their littlest size of tops, so I typically wet them manually with a water bottle to activate the cooling material, since they don’t fit snugly enough to be wet with my sweat. I carry a cooling scarf and typically wear it around my forehead. I carry a parasol with UPF 100+ protection.

At the start and end of each hike I find shade, sit down, take off my running shirt and drench it fully in water. I do the same thing sporadically throughout the hike if I’m going more than three to five miles.

I drink a lot throughout and make sure I can get my blood sugar back up immediately afterwards (room temperature coconut water doesn’t taste great but it definitely helps!)

I make sure I go with people I know and trust who are used to what my reactions look like and will check on me to make sure I’m not overheating or reacting.

I make sure to take one of our two cars with my window film so I have a “safe space” immediately before and after I hike.

I try to go to trails that have a visitor center available at the trailhead so I can get serious shade and air conditioning without waiting for a hot car to cool down.

And I don’t make plans for afterward, because I will have a reaction if I hike — so I need to plan accordingly for recovery.

When I get back I sleep, I soak in Epsom salts or a hot tub if I can, and I eat whatever sounds like I can handle it right then (grilled chicken, rice and veggies or avocados, toast, and a smoked protein are my go-to recovery meals).

I can still have my fun, even with a sun allergy.

All it takes is a little creativity.

the author with her UV umbrella in the woods

Originally published: March 13, 2018
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