Some thoughts on Sun, Health and Safety
OK, so clearly it’s summer. It’s sunny. It’s hot! And all that means not only a lot of fun but also a lot of potential health risks for you.
Frankly, I’m a fair skinned white guy that was raised in Florida and the Caribbean in the early 60’s when there was little to no concern for skin cancers or sun burns. You go burned, it hurt, you peeled, you got over it and you went back out. Nowadays we know a little bit more about your skin than we did back then. I had a lot of fun in the sun, and I want you to really enjoy your time in the sun as well. But, I want you to do so safely.
Here’s a few thoughts to help you enjoy the summer sun and fun, yet still watch out for your health:
OK, so, we all enjoy the sun. It’s fun to be outside, at the beach, but overexposure to sun can result in skin cancers later in life.
Analysis of the dangers of ultraviolet(UV) exposure show us that on average children are receiving 3 times more exposure than adults. In addition things like concrete, sand, water and even snow can reflect 85% to 90% of the sun’s UV rays. And, you can get sunburns even on cloudy days.
There are more than 1.2 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year in the US. And, in some parts of the world, melanoma is increasing at rates faster than any other cancers. Keep in mind, one serious sunburn can double a child’s risk for developing skin cancer later in their lifetime. And melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills one person each hour.
Keep in mind, people of all races can get sun burns. Whereas certain skin types are at higher risk, skin cancer affects everyone.
The cause behind these concerns are UV rays. These are the sun’s “invisible” burning rays which cause sunburns and in some cases skin cancer.
There are three type of UV rays:
UV-A: This is the more constant year-round and will penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers. UV-A rays are also harmful and contribute to premature aging of the skin, burning, and the development of some forms of skin cancers.
UV-B: This is the primary cause of sun burns, premature skin aging and skin cancers.
UV-C: These rays are blocked by the earth’s atmosphere and don’t reach the surface, so they’re not a concern in our discussion.
OK, this is going to sound obvious, but the more intense the sun, the greater the exposure. This varies with time of day and UV is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky and less during the morning and evenings hours. It also varies with the season, if it’s hotter outside, you’re going to have more UV exposure. It also varies with altitude – the higher in the mountains you are, the more UV exposure as you have less atmosphere to filter UV rays and shield you.
Geographic locations also is important. You probably remember studying about the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in elementary school. Between these two tropics are where direct ray exposure is at the greatest, depending on the seasons, and it gets weaker as you move towards the polar regions.
And, like cooking chicken in the oven, the longer you’re in the sun, the more UV rays you will be exposed to.
It’s important to understand and know your local UV forecast. You can find this at most any weather forecast. Keep in mind that less than 2 is low, 3-5 moderate, 6-7 high, 8-10 very high and over 11 is considered extreme. Knowing this forecast can help you protect yourself from harm potential.
Considerations based on the UV index scale include:
2 or less – low: Wear sunglasses, cover and use sunscreen if you burn easily
3-5 – moderate: There is risk of harm, be cautious and stay in shady areas
6-7 – high: Sunscreen of at least SPF 30 is advised and you should be considering a hat and sunglasses.
8-10 – very high: Apply 30+ SPF sunscreen regularly, wear protective clothing and sunglasses and take extra precautions
11 – extreme: Avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm local time, use sunscreen and wear precautionary clothing.
Keep in mind that people of ALL races can burn. Your risks for burning increase with the amount of time you spend in the sun, having fair skin, having had severe burns from sun, tanning beds, etc., appearance of moles, living in the sun belt or higher elevations or if you have a family history of skin cancer.
So how are skin cancers detected in the first place? Frankly, you can be your own first line of defense. Start with performing a self exam. Look for any chances in your skin. Look for changes in size, color, textures or shape of a dark spot of mole. Check any new moles for bleeding and also check for any unusual bumps or growths. If you find anything of concern or out of the ordinary, contact your doctor or a dermatologist as soon as you can.
This takes us to our next concern: heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat related illness and results when the body is unable to control and regulate its core temperature. Sweating will stop and the body can’t cool itself. Heat stroke is a major medical emergency and could result in death of not treated quickly and properly.
So, how would I know if someone is suffering from heat stroke? A person could have confusion, loss of consciousness and/or seizures. If a person has been out in the sun and has dry skin (isn’t sweating) that could be a concern for heat stroke as sweat is a way your body regulates its temperature.
So, what to do if you think there’s an issue: Get the person into the shade and cool them down with water (NOT alcoholic beverages – even pour the water on them! ). Monitor their body temp and seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
There’s also the condition referred to as Heat Exhaustion. This is exhibited with signs of muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, weakness and fainting, headaches and dizziness, paleness(skin color loss), fatigue, and heavy sweating. Should you feel you’re experiencing these symptoms, drink a cold non-alcoholic beverage, rest in a cool place, cold shower or bath, use of light weight clothing and getting into an air-condition environment are advised. If you don’t see improvements in your condition, get medical attention quickly.
Two other issues to keep in mind are heat cramps and heat rash. Heat cramp occur to those that sweat a lot during strenuous activity and is caused by temporary imbalances in your body’s fluid and electrolyte levels and balances. Should this happen, stop all activity and sit down. Drink a sports drink or clear juice and don’t resume your normal activity for at least several hours. Seek medical attention if the cramping doesn’t stop. Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot weather, generally displayed with a red cluster of small blisters. Go to a cooler area, keep the rash area dry and powder can be used for additional comfort.
We talked about using sunglasses. It’s important to protect your eyes. Sunlight can reflect off of snow, sand and water with UV radiation risks increasing with the reflection.
Consider these guidelines to help protect your eyes:
– look for sunglasses with 99 – 100 % UV protection.
– ask your eye care professional to test your sunglasses if you’re not sure
– if you’re wearing contacts, you should be wearing sunglasses
– wraparound sunglasses will offer the most protection
– your kids need sunglasses with UV protection.
OK, so we still want to enjoy this great weather and sunshine. So, make sure you dress appropriately. Use light weight, light colored cotton fiber clothing as synthetics materials tend to keep in body heat. Wear a hat for sun protection as needed and shoes that let your feet breath. If you have kids, dress infants in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with a hat or umbrella. Use a sunscreen if they’re exposed to the sun.
Hey, we all want to have fun in the sun, and frankly our bodies NEED the sun. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin for a good reason. UV-B rays that are absorbed by the skin product vitamin D. We need this vitamin for proper calcium absorption, bone growth, cell growth and normal immunity functions, and it helps reduce things like osteoporosis. The amount of vitamin D you will get depends on the time of day and amount of time you spend in the sun, your location and the color of your skin. Interestingly enough, pale skinned people make vitamin D quicker.
We don’t need to get a tan or a burn to enjoy and benefit from the sun. Sunlight has many benefits ranging from improving our mood through increases in endorphins and seratonin, to balancing out hormones, stimulating red blood cells and oxygen in the blood and actually reducing the risks of certain cancers. So, don’t be afraid of the sun! Enjoy it, but also respect it.
So enjoy the sun. Make sure you’re properly hydrated by drinking additional fluids. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Eating fruits also helps you stay hydrated.
Get out and enjoy the sun, apply your sunscreen and reaply after swimming, perspiring and toweling off. Make sure to stay hydrated and stay in the shade when possible.
Here’s a few links for any further research you may want to do:
OK, some legaleze: What we’re talking about here is for informational and educational purposes only and you shouldn’t be using it to diagnose or treat any known or unknown medical symptoms or conditions. If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of illness or you think you have a medical condition, you need to consult your physician or appropriate medical professional.
OK, now go have some fun in the sun! But, be smart about it.
I’m Don Rima and that’s the view, From Where I Stand.
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