The sun is an invaluable resource for many physical, emotional, and mental health needs. Sun exposure is scientifically proven to improve mood by encouraging serotonin release in the brain and subsequently helping depression symptoms. The sun also helps our skin produce Vitamin D, which plays a very key role in bone health. However, like most things in life, too much of a good thing can ultimately cause harm. This summer we want you and your family to be safe while also benefiting from your time in the sun. First, let’s highlight some of the dangers of over-exposure to the sun.
Beware! Too much heat is not a healthy treat
Some of the common ill effects of excessive sun exposure include:
- Heat Stroke/Heat Exhaustion
Sunburn is typically caused by staying out in the sun for too long without protection (sunscreen and/or clothing with UV protection). Some sun rays, known as UVA and UVB rays, damage skin cells. This can lower the body’s ability to fight illness. Some signs of damaged skin cells (sunburn) include redness of the skin, skin inflammation, and painful skin tenderness. Repeated incidents of sunburn have been associated with an increased risk of various cancers, including but not limited to melanoma, basal cell, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Protect Yourself Against Sunburn
- Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with a minimum strength of SPF 30. This SPF level protects your skin from the penetration of UVA and UVB rays while you are having fun in the sun.
- Expose in Doses: Maybe take breaks from your sun time. Every 30 minutes – 1 hour find some shade or go indoors to check in with your skin. Re-apply sunscreen at least every 90 minutes or after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Accessorize: Wear a hat that has a brim to protect your face, ears, and parts of your neck for adequate protection from sun rays. Wear clothing that has a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating of 30 or above. Wearing UPF clothing is essentially the same as wearing sunscreen – but you don’t have to worry about reapplying! Though sunglasses do not protect your skin, it is also a good idea to wear sunglasses in bright sunshine.
Treatment for a sunburn
- Cool baths to help relieve pain.
- Applying an ice pack/cold compress to irritated areas may help reduce inflammation.
- Aloe application to help soothe inflammation.
- Aspirin and Ibuprofen can help with inflammation and skin tenderness.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!!
Dehydration occurs from not adequately replenishing the body’s reserve of water. When external temperatures rise the body attempts to cool itself by sweating. This reaction results in a decrease in water inside the body. If this supply is not refilled, dehydration occurs. Symptoms of dehydration include weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, and sometimes nausea.
Prevent & Treat Dehydration
- The only way to prevent and treat dehydration is to hydrate! On average, more than 50% of our bodies are made of water. This means that water is vital to our bodily functions. Making sure our insides our hydrated helps every routine bodily process that we need throughout the day.
- Hydration can be done via water as well as ice, frozen popsicles, or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heat stroke. When the external temperature is high, the body will attempt to cool itself by sweating and then allowing that sweat to evaporate. This process is not successful if the sweat is not able to evaporate due to high humidity or other circumstances. No evaporation of sweat causes the core body temperature to continue to rise. If lost fluids are not being replaced, this exacerbates the issue even more.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- Heavy sweating
- Weakness & fatigue
- Pale & clammy skin
- Nausea & vomiting
- Muscle cramps
If these symptoms are not resolved, heat stroke can occur. This is much more damaging than heat exhaustion.
Protect Yourself Against Heat Exhaustion
- Light Loose Clothing: This will ensure your body is able to ‘breathe’ and your sweat is able to evaporate from your skin as much as possible.
- Plan Ahead: Check the forecast and humidity percentage before planning your day. High heat indexes and humidity should be avoided strictly for the safest time in the sun. Typically the hottest points of the day are in the mid-late afternoon.
- Take Breaks: Be sure to plan your sun time in increments. Take a break in the shade or preferably inside a home or shelter with air conditioning.
- Accessorize: Wear a hat that has a brim to simulate shade.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Feeling unwell after 30 minutes of resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water
- Not sweating even while overheated
- A fever over 104 degrees
- Fast breathing/shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness/unresponsive to stimuli
Heat stroke can cause damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. If you or someone you know has symptoms of heat stroke, immediate medical attention is necessary. Call 911 immediately or head to the closest emergency room.
General Signs That You Need Medical Attention For Any Sun-Related Condition
- Time: If any of the symptoms mentioned above for each sun exposure condition either lasts for more than one hour or worsens increasingly in even less time, then you should get medical help immediately from an urgent care clinic or emergency room.
- Response: If the injured person is having difficulty following directions, is unable to speak, or has become unconscious, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately.
- Physical Abnormalities: If the person is vomiting or has stopped sweating completely, this is a sign that their heat exhaustion has progressed to heat stroke and you should get emergency medical help to avoid death or permanent disability.
We hope you are having a great summer – but if you find yourself having too much fun in the sun, visit us and we can help!