Outdoor gigs are great and a natural part of enjoying summer, and it would be crazy to suggest you pass up a chance to perform. However, it’s important to take extra care to avoid overexposure to the sun and summer heat. When planning your next summer performance, take measures to prevent these dangers: sunburn, UV damage to your eyes, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.
The best way to protect your skin from the sun is by covering it as much as possible. Ideal clothes for outdoor gigs are sun protective, lightweight, and comfortable. Generally, dark, tightly woven fabrics provide more protection, and if you can see light through the fabric, UV rays can get through it. If you play in a band that requires a certain “uniform,” you may want to consider a laundry additive, like SunGuard, which increases the UPF of any clothing.
Ideally, you should also wear a hat with extra fabric that drapes down the sides and back or one that has a brim of two inches or more all the way around it. Loosely woven straw hats and baseball caps do not offer as much protection.
Apply sunscreen to any skin not covered by clothing, including your head, if you cannot wear a hat. When choosing a sunscreen take time to read the label carefully. It should have a UVB ray sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher to filter out 93% of UVB rays, plus it should contain protection against UVA rays. Look for products labeled “broad spectrum,” or containing avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide. (A new UVA protection star rating system proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not yet in effect.) Always use a generous coat and apply it 20 to 30 minutes before leaving for your gig.
Many people erroneously think that, because they are wearing a foundation or other facial makeup that offers SPF protection, they do not need additional sunscreen on their faces. However, you would need to apply seven times the normal amount of foundation, or 14 times the normal amount of powder, to get the SPF factor that is on its label. Also, don’t forget to protect your lips with a SPF 15 or higher lipstick or balm.
Bring sunscreen to your gig, as you should reapply it every two hours. It may rub off even quicker if you are sweating, especially if you wipe your face or hands.
Long hours spent in the sun with no eye protection can increase eyestrain, as well as your chances of one-day developing an eye disease. Sunglasses do not have to be expensive and dark glasses aren’t necessarily better, so read the labels carefully. They should block at least 99% UVA and UVB radiation. Those labeled “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV requirements” are acceptable, but those labeled “cosmetic,” or with no label, probably do not offer enough protection.
Also, your eyes may be hit by the sun from different angles, depending on the position of the stage and time of day. Larger frames and wraparound sunglasses can help with these problems. Consider bringing an extra pair, just in case.
Get Out of the Oven
As your body works to cool itself off while you are performing, blood rushes to the surface of the skin and away from the brain, muscles, and organs. As a result, too much time playing in the summer heat can interfere with both your physical playing abilities and your mental capacity. It can even lead to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion, cramps, and heat stroke.
The first rule of thumb is to stay hydrated. Keep a large water bottle by your side at all times and drink from it every chance you can. Never drink alcoholic beverages before or during a performance in the heat, as they tend to increase dehydration.
Watch for these heat exhaustion and dehydration symptoms: dry mouth or sticky saliva, feelings of listlessness, confusion or irritation, muscle aches and cramps, headache, nausea, drenching sweat, or dizziness.
If you experience these symptoms, it is important that you immediately take a break and look for a cool place to recover. Lie down with feet slightly elevated and sip on cool, lightly salted beverage, such as sports drinks, water with a little (one teaspoon per quart) salt added, or cool bouillon. Cramps can be alleviated with a gentle massage or pressure to the affected muscles. If symptoms to do not go away or become worse, seek medical treatment immediately. Heat stroke can develop rapidly and can cause permanent brain damage if not treated.