Summers wouldn’t be the same without pool time, barbeques, and outdoor excursions. But as with everything else, spending a lot of time out in the sun has both its positives and negatives. Yes, the sun is our primary source for Vitamin D, which is essential for our bones, teeth, immune system, cardiovascular system, and even our mental health. But the sun also exposes us to ultraviolet rays, which can be detrimental to our health. In observance of National Ultraviolet Safety Month, let’s take a look at some facts about UV exposure and why sun safety is so important.
How are UV Rays Dangerous for Our Health?
Ultraviolet safety awareness is important because of the many health risks associated with UV rays. Too much exposure can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and skin damage, including skin cancer. In fact, UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer in the U.S. Sunburns can increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. But UV exposure can raise your risk of skin cancer even without causing sunburn. UV rays are also the primary cause of cataracts and macular degeneration, which ultimately leads to vision loss among seniors.
Who is Most at Risk for UV Damage?
Melanin helps block out damaging UV rays up to a point. Because fair-skinned people do not have the same amount of melanin as darker-skinned people, they are more prone to sunburns, skin cancer, and skin damage. Other people who are at a higher risk for UV damage include those who:
- Take certain medications that suppress or lower their immune system
- Have had skin cancer before
- Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
- Have many moles, irregular moles, or large moles
- Have freckles and burn before tanning
- Have blue or green eyes
- Have blonde, red, or light brown hair
- Live or vacation at high altitudes
- Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
- Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
- Spend a lot of time outdoors
- Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus
- Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome
- Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as HIV
- Have had an organ transplant
How Do You Prevent UV Damage?
- Limit your outdoor time when UV rays are most intense. Practice ultraviolet safety whenever possible. UV rays are most intense between 10 am and 4 pm. Try scheduling your pool time or other outdoor activities early in the mornings or during late afternoons. If you must go out during peak UV time, limit yourself to 30 minutes to an hour of exposure.
- Find shade. Whenever possible, plan outdoor activities with shade nearby. Shade structures and trees can help cool you down instantly. According to the University of Purdue, sitting under the shade of a tree provides the equivalent of SPF 10 sunblock.
- Cover up whenever possible. Whenever you can, cover your skin and eyes. Choose wraparound-shaped sunglasses that protect your eyes from all angles. Look for ones that block 99 to 100% of UV rays and glare. Thankfully, swim shirts are just as cool to wear as sunglasses, so there’s no shame in showing less skin at the pool or beach. For dry outdoor activities, you can cover up with clothing made of loose, comfortable fabrics, like linen and thin cottons. Broad-brimmed hats are also great for protecting your face, ears, and neck.
Want more quick tips on surviving the hot Texas temperatures? Read here about keeping cool & hydration. If you’re badly sunburnt or need a doctor for any other medical emergency, walk in to Hospitality Health ER in Galveston located at 4222 Seawall Blvd.