Living with the climate:

Living with desert environments is not difficult but it does take discipline and adherence to sensible routines at all times. It is an observed fact that health problems in hot and isolated locations take on a greater seriousness for those involved than they would in temperate climates. It is still common practice with Western oil companies and other commercial organizations regularly engaged at desert sites to fly ill or injured persons home as a first measure in the knowledge that most will recover more rapidly without the psychological and environmental pressures of a desert site. Most health risks in the desert are avoidable. The rules, evolved over many years, are simple and easy to follow:

    1. Allow time to acclimatize to full desert conditions. Conserve your energy at first rather than acting as if you were still in a temperate climatic regime. Most people take a week or more to adjust to heat conditions in the deep Sahara.

    2. Stay out of direct sunlight whenever possible, especially once the sun is high. Whenever you can, do what the locals do, move from shade to shade.

    3. Wear clothes to protect your skin from the sun, particularly your head and neck. Use a high Sun Protection Factor (SPA) cream, preferably as high as SPF15 (94%) to minimize the effects of Ultraviolet-B. Footwear is a matter of choice though many of those from the temperature parts of the world will find strong, light but well ventilated boots ideal for keeping sand, sun, venomous livestock, and thorns off the feet. Slip on boots is best of all since they are convenient if visiting Arab encampments/housing/religious sites, where shoes are not worn.

    4. Drink good quality water regularly and fully. It is estimated that 10-15 litters per day are needed by a healthy person to avoid water deficiency in desert conditions, even if there is no actual feeling of thirst. The majority of ailments arising in the desert relate to water deficiency and so it is worth the small effort of regular drinking of water. Too much alcoholic drink has the opposite effect in most cases and is not, unfortunately, a substitute for water!

    5. Be prepared for cold nights by having some warm clothes to hand.

    6. Stay in your quarters or vehicle if there is a sand storm.

    7. Refrain from eating dubious foods. Deserts and stomach upsets have a habit of going hand in hand –‘gyppy-tummy’ and “Tripoli-trots” give a taste of the problem! Choose hot cooked meals in preference to cold meats and tired salads. Peel all fruit and uncooked fresh vegetables. Do not eat ‘native’ milk-based items or drink untreated water unless you are absolutely sure of its good quality.

    8. Sleep off the ground if you can. There are very few natural dangers in the desert but scorpions, spiders, and snakes are found (but are rarely fatal) and are best avoided.

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