Summer Sun & Safety
After being cooped up for months, getting out of the house has been a more welcome diversion than ever before. That’s a good thing — aside from enticing you to be active (which is always a plus), there are numerous benefits to having fun in the sun.
That’s because sunlight itself provides many healthful benefits, such as:
- improved mood (it helps produce serotonin);
- Vitamin D for strong bones;
- reduced risk of certain cancers, including colon, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and Hodgkin’s lymphoma;
- help with skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, and acne; and
- possibly as a treatment for other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
But of course, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and that’s especially true of sunshine.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke
Summer sun increases the risk of these three heat-related syndromes, which range in severity from mild to serious:
- Heat cramps
These painful muscle spasms are most often brought on by intense exercise in the heat and usually affect the calves, arms, abs, and back. Resting, fluids (juice or sports drinks), range-of-motion stretching, and gentle massage generally help relieve symptoms.
- Heat exhaustion
This more serious condition is a result of your body overheating, causing heavy sweating and a rapid heartbeat. Other symptoms can include cool, moist skin with goosebumps, faintness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, and headache. Rest in a cooler place and drink cool water or sports drinks. If symptoms worsen or don’t improve within an hour, call your doctor. You could be on the way to the most severe heat-related syndrome…
This is a serious and deadly condition in which your body temperature rises to 104°F or higher. Symptoms of heatstroke include confusion, slurred speech, rapid breathing and racing pulse. Whatever you do, don’t ignore them. Call 911 immediately.
The sun’s UV rays pose a number of serious risks, including:
- skin cancer;
- premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkles, liver spots and leathery skin;
- inflamed or burned corneas;
- cataracts; and
- a weakened immune system.
Simple steps for staying safe
So how do you get all of the benefits of sunshine without risking all of the downsides? Luckily, it’s pretty easy.
- Lather on sunscreen
Use SPF 15 or higher and make sure it screens out both UVA and UVB. Check the label for how often to re-apply.
If you couldn’t tell from a farmer’s tan, clothing offers protection from the sun’s rays, but not as much when it’s wet or loosely woven.
- Plan around peak sun
UV rays are generally most intense between 10 am and 4 pm. Schedule outdoor work or play for early morning or late afternoon/early evening.
- Hit the shade
If you need to be out during peak sun hours, spend as much time in the shade as possible. But remember: UV rays can bend around and sneak into shady areas, too.
The dog days have arrived in full force, but as we know, they’ll be gone before you know it. At St. Clair Hospital, we want you to enjoy them while they last.
American Skin Association: http://www.americanskin.org/resource/safety.php
American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/uv-radiation.html