Here Comes The Sun
How To Avoid The Most Common Heat-Related Problems
As summer approaches, the warm weather and longer daylight hours mean everyone will be spending more time in the sun. As the mercury rises, however, so do the health risks associated with too much sun — and that doesn't just mean sunburn! How can something that feels so good have the potential to be so bad for your health? For the answer to that question, here are a list of the most common sun dangers according to experts.
The Heat Is On
Doctors say that heat exhaustion is fairly common during the dog days of summer. And, feelings of nausea, dizziness and headaches, especially during exercise, are often the first sign. For this reason, doctors stress the importance of immediately stopping what you are doing, moving to a shady or cool area and drinking plenty of water.
Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke, which is a far more dangerous condition. When heat stroke occurs, the brain loses its ability to regulate the body's temperature and as a result, becomes defenseless. Symptoms of heat stroke include loss of perspiration, flushed skin and the possibility of losing consciousness. It can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. When heat stroke strikes, doctors recommend calling for emergency attention first. They then suggest cooling the person's body with water, wet towels or even an ice water bath until help arrives!
A Bad Combination
Besides heat illness, there are other concerns regarding sun exposure. For example, certain diseases, such as cold sores and lupus, can worsen with exposure to sunlight. Also, some diuretics, antibiotics, and certain tranquilizers can cause photosensitivity, a reaction that results in the skin burning more easily. To prevent this from happening, doctors advise patients taking any kind of prescription or over-the-counter medication to ask their pharmacist first about the medication's potential sensitivities to the sun.
For many people, particularly moms, slathering on sunscreen is a normal part of getting ready to go outside. Americans seem to have heard the message about sunscreen protection, and the supermarket aisles are crammed with bottles of different sizes, shapes and strengths — a range of SPF numbers, UVA protection, UVB protection and on and on. Does anybody really understand it? And, is it doing any good? The jury is out on both questions, according to medical experts. Because of consumers' confusions over sunscreen labeling, the FDA last year announced new regulations for labeling, which have already begun to take effect. Under the new system, terms such as "sunblock," "waterproof," and "all-day protection" — all misleading or unsupported — are prohibited. While this is a change that skin cancer experts welcome, some are bothered by the adjustments to SPF, sun protection factor, labeling. Manufacturers are now required to stop using numbers larger than 30 because of questions about the accuracy of testing.
However, some physicians worry that the cap will eliminate the incentive to develop a better sunscreen. To make sense of the current labeling system and protect yourself from the sun's most harmful rays, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that everyone apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher at least 30 minutes prior to going outside. SPF demonstrates the level of sunburn protection offered by the product. For example, an SPF of 15 blocks 93 percent of the sun's burning rays while an SPF of 30 blocks 97 percent. But, selecting the right SPF is only half the battle. It is also important to find one with both UVA and UVB protection.
In general, the higher the number the better the protection. When applying sunscreen, make sure to cover all areas, even those hidden by light clothing. Many times, lighter fabrics do not offer adequate protection against UVA rays. To prevent sunscreen from being washed or sweated off, it should be reapplied every two hours and after every swim. Although it will help prevent sunburn, doctors are quick to point out that sunscreen is not a guaranteed skin cancer prevention method. That's why other safety steps are recommended. These include limiting your direct exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the ultraviolet rays are most intense.
In addition, the ACS suggests wearing a hat, long sleeves, long pants and long skirts, as much as possible, when outdoors. The tighter the weave of the fabric, the greater the protection from harmful ultraviolet rays. Also, dry, rather than wet, fabrics provide the most sun protection. Doctors also advise men and women to purchase sunglasses that block between 99 and 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
As the days continue to get longer, more people will inevitably spend time outdoors. But, doctors caution men and women to remember this: a little sun goes a long way.