Summer is rapidly approaching! The time has finally come to start wearing T-shirts, shorts, sandals, and swimsuits. While it may be true that during the winter months some exposure to sunlight can be uplifting and emotionally beneficial, a little caution needs to be taken before exposing your skin to the stronger and more direct rays of the summer sun. There is an unhealthy side effect in that bright sunshine we all crave and love. We need to be aware of this and take steps to avoid becoming a victim of the hidden danger in summer sunlight.
There are three types of ultraviolet rays within the spectrum of the light that travels through space from the sun and through the atmosphere of Earth. These ultraviolet rays are the hidden menace in that warm, pleasing feeling we get when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight. They are called UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer of the atmosphere. However, the UVA and UVB rays make their way through and are absorbed into skin cells. UVB is more damaging, but UVA, which penetrates deeper into the skin, accounts for more than 90% of a person’s exposure to ultraviolet rays over a lifetime. This exposure to UV rays can cause damage within the DNA of skin cells and lead to skin cancer. It can also cause premature aging of the skin and eye problems, such as cataracts.
It makes sense to take steps to prevent those ultraviolet rays from causing damage to your skin. While you can still enjoy the outdoors on those warm summer days, it is a healthy exercise to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. Donning a hat with a wide brim can help. Wearing a long sleeve shirt made of a light, white fabric such as cotton is a good idea, too. However, if you really want to be comfortable and wear shorts, T-shirts, and swimsuits, a layer of sunscreen is the best way to avoid the damage of ultraviolet rays.
Since the advent of sunscreen, several varieties and strengths have been developed. With all the different choices, it can become confusing to determine which will work best for you. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises using a sunscreen that has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or higher. SPF is calculated in terms of how long it will take UVB rays to redden the skin after sunscreen has been applied. If you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, it will take 15 times longer for UVB rays to redden your skin than it would if you use no protection at all. The amount of time and the directness of exposure to sunrays should be considered when choosing the strength of the sunscreen to use.
Recently, some concern has been raised about how avoiding direct sunlight and the use of sunscreen can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. While it is true that blocking UV rays does hinder a body from manufacturing Vitamin D, there are several other healthy ways to obtain it in your diet. A daily vitamin supplement is one option. Eating a serving of salmon, tuna, or mackerel every week is another. Milk products in our country are fortified with Vitamin D, and it is also present in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. With all these choices, there is no need to risk exposure to the danger of UV rays.
As the summer days grow longer, brighter, and warmer, keep in mind that preventing the health problems caused by over exposure to UV rays is easy to do and beneficial. Put on those short pants, sandals, T-shirts, tank tops, and swimsuits, and then apply a layer of sunscreen before heading out into that glorious, warm summer sunshine. As you go through life enjoying good health and more summers, you will be thankful that you did.
Jim, Claims System Administrative Specialist