The Slow Recovery From Sunburn at Elevation

8Days I'd say windburn did the damage to my eyes and face, but windburn is just technically a sunburn.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about climbing to Camp Muir, conditions were not great. Our preparation wasn't either.

No one wore suntan lotion, which was of course the greatest of errors. No one thought about it during the day because we were under heavy clouds and getting nailed by mixed precipitation most of the climb. Though most of us brought sunglasses, no one brought glacier glasses (which give greater coverage) and the sunglasses weren't cutting it in the rain, snow and high winds that blasted our faces and left the open skies and sun at Camp Muir to fry us.

Shortly after the climb, I felt that my nose got a burn, and that didn't really surprise me because it was the only part of my face not covered by my hat and hood. Otherwise, everyone felt good at the end of the day, and Amanda and I went out for sushi that evening to celebrate our achievement and reload on calories.

When I woke up the next morning, it was a different story as illustrated by the Day 1 image. I could hardly open my eyes and only did so when I needed to walk around and orient myself. I "took pictures" of my surroundings in between blinks and kept my eyes shut to settle the stinging. Amanda had a decent sunburn, but that was all. Scott also dealt with one eye swollen shut (lucky!) that required some steroid eye drops. The rest of our party was relatively unscathed besides sunburns. I guess I just had the most sensitive skin out of the bunch and couldn't handle the double-dose of UV coming through the clouds and bouncing off the snow.

Amanda nursed me back to health with homeopathic treatment, prescribing regular icing on my eyes, aloe vera and emu oil -- oil rendered from the fat of an emu, greasy and shiny -- on my skin , and vitamin E oil on my lips. I ended up going to the Urgent Care on Day 3 just to see if I could speed up the recovery process with some good drugs and prevent infection for my blistering skin. The doctor gave me a steroid cream and a dose of pity.

After my skin tightened up from the steroid cream, I peeled like a snake for a couple days and finally started feeling normal again. My eyes weren't irritated and I regained elasticity in my face. I mostly felt like an idiot for the week because I know I have sensitive skin and have a solid couple decades of sunburn memories that serve as reminders, but the excitement and anxiety for that climb blinded my better judgement.

As you can see in the Day 8 picture, I'm back to normal. I'm thankful I can see and make expressions again and am especially thankful for having a patient and tolerant wife!

Now, you'll have to excuse me as I need to head to the drugstore to pick up some suntan lotion. It's looking cloudy outside.