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Skin Sense: How to deal with the perils of outdoor work
Jenny Yeung Ming-ha
update on Saturday, January 23, 2010
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Some jobs require people to spend long hours outdoors where they are exposed to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) rays, especially in summer. This can often give rise to skin problems.

Outdoor workers, including farmers, gardeners, landscape engineers, construction workers and public service workers, spend a long time outdoors getting exposed to intense sunlight. Too much sunlight speeds up the ageing process of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled.

UV rays cause reddening of the skin. This is the first sign of the damage caused by the sun and can lead to blisters and peeling. If this is left untreated, long-term problems can arise, the most serious being skin cancer.

Outdoor workers should apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on any exposed skin area. They should also wear a hat with a brim, keep protective clothing on and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Lengthy exposure to UV rays can also trigger a skin condition known as polymorphic light eruption in people with a photosensitivity problem. This can set off a rash within hours of exposure to the sun.

Small red pimples and blisters appear on the skin within four days after exposure to sunlight. The lesions may also appear as scaly skin, which is common among people aged between 20 and 40.

The following herbal tea is good for relieving sunburn and helping with polymorphous light eruptions. Place nine grams of christina loosestrife herb and 30g glabrous greenbrier in a cooking pot. Add 800ml of water to the pot until it reaches an inch above the surface of the herbs. Soak the ingredients for 15 minutes. Then bring the ingredients to the boil until a bowl of about 250ml of herbal liquid remains.

For external application, use 100 grams of watermelon peel and 20 millilitres of honey. Grind the watermelon peel and mix it with honey. Apply to the affected area.

Outdoor workers tend to develop excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, because of long hours of exposure to sunlight. Sweaty palm is the most common form of this condition, which can also appear on the foot, underarm or face.

Hyperhidrosis occurs due to a hyper reaction of the sympathetic nervous system to heat. In Chinese medicine, insufficient qi, also referred to as vital energy, and insufficient yin, or body fluid, will affect our normal thermal regulation.

People who suffer from hyperhidrosis, caused by insufficient qi, will display symptoms such as feeling tired easily, a pale complexion and shortness of breath.

For treatment, use six grams of Chinese clover, 10 grams setose thistle and 10 grams fang feng. Place the ingredients in a cooking pot. Add 800ml of water to the pot until it reaches an inch above the surface of the herbs. Soak the ingredients for 15 minutes. Then bring the ingredients to the boil until a bowl of about 250ml of herbal liquid remains.

Sufferers of hyperhidrosis, caused by insufficient yin, will have symptoms such as a dry mouth, night sweats and hot flushes. They can use six grams of chinensis berries, nine grams ginseng and nine grams dwarf lilyturf tuber for treatment. Place the ingredients in a cooking pot. Add 800 millilitres of water to the pot until it reaches an inch above the surface of the herbs. Soak the ingredients for 15 minutes. Then bring the ingredients to the boil until a bowl of about 250 millilitres of herbal liquid remains.

Outdoor workers can also fall victim to insect stings and bites in their work environment. The venom of an insect sting or bite consists of foreign proteins and other substances which will then trigger an allergic reaction such as redness, swelling, itching and prickly pain. Bites from mosquitoes usually do not cause significant illnesses, unless they convey vectors or micro-organisms that live within the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can spread viral diseases such as dengue and yellow fever.

To alleviate an allergic reaction, use 30 grams of purslane, 20 grams Indian dendranthema flower and 20 grams riverbank skullcap. Wash the ingredients and put them into a large pot.

Add cold water to one inch above the surface of the herbs and soak for 15 minutes. Then bring it to the boil and leave it cool. Use the herbal liquid to wash the affected area several times a day.

This is the last of the series. Classified Post accepts no liability for the result of actions taken based on the advice given in the series.

Jenny Yeung Ming-ha is a registered Chinese medicine practitioner and deputy managing director of Jane Clare Professional Skin Centre

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