Sun safety from head to toe
Here in Greater Cincinnati, summers go all too quickly, so it’s important to make the most out of the time you have with the summer sun. If you’re not careful, sunburn, heat exhaustion and dehydration can all slow you down.
Use caution when playing in the sun
“There are a few ways the sun can compromise your health, and there’s more than one way to mitigate its effects,” says John Piersma, M.D, a board-certified internal medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Medical Associates. Here are some tips for safely soaking up the sun:
- Apply (and reapply) sunscreen. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. One to two ounces of sunscreen, applied at least 30 minutes prior to exposure, should cover the whole body, including areas you might overlook like your ears, nose and neck. You will also need a sunscreen balm to protect your lips, which can burn very easily. Test your “suntelligence” here.
- Wear protective clothing. Protective attire like shirts, wide brimmed-hats and sunglasses serve as good barriers. Choose this clothing not just for style, but look for items that block 99 or 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. To avoid dehydration and heatstroke, choose clothing that is lightweight.
- Check the time. Limit outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Surprisingly, a cloudy day does not mean you can go without sunscreen or other sun protection. “The sun can be just as damaging even if you can’t see it through the clouds,” Dr. Piersma says.
- Quench your thirst. To avoid dehydration or early signs of heat exhaustion, Dr. Piersma has this advice: “Drink at least 12 ounces of fluid before any outdoor activity,” he says. “Then continue to hydrate with at least eight ounces of fluid every half-hour.” You should also avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages because they will actually rob your cells of water.
- Be on the safe side. The first signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion (dry mouth, headache, weakness and/or dizziness) often appear after they are already affecting your body. Stop activity, find someplace cool and drink some water if you feel weak, dizzy or nauseous.
Recognize sun damage – and when to do something about it
“Each sunburn increases your lifetime risk of skin cancer, because it damages the skin cells and disrupts the body’s immune system,” says Dr. Piersma. “All skin types are at risk for sunburn and skin cancer, not just people with fair skin.” Even if your skin normally gets tan, you’re increasing your likelihood of skin cancer, because any change in pigmentation signals cellular damage.
Ultraviolet rays are notorious for causing skin cancers like squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and the deadliest, melanoma. Skin cancer screenings are vital for early detection, successful treatment and a quick recovery. If you notice changes to your skin, make an appointment with your primary care doctor for a full skin-cancer examination.
To find a primary care physician near you, call 877-904-4YOU or visit www.TheChristHospital.com.