When summer’s in full swing, many of us are keen to soak up the sun and get outdoors. Spending time outside has plenty of health benefits, but it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers the sun poses.
Sun safety is not just about avoiding sunburn; it’s about protecting yourself from long-term damage. Here are the facts from our clinical experts:
How does the sun affect our health?
The sun emits harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can lead to various health issues. Too much exposure can cause damage to your skin, eyes, and immune system.
The two main types of harmful UV rays are known as UVA and UVB:
UVA rays have a longer wavelength and can penetrate deep into your skin, contributing to premature ageing, wrinkles, and sun spots. Did you know that they can also pass through window glass?
UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and affect the outer layer of your skin, causing sunburn and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
What kind of damage can the sun cause?
Skin cancer is one of the biggest health risks associated with sun exposure. Unprotected exposure to UV radiation can cause DNA damage to your skin cells, increasing your risk of skin cancer.
Exposure to intense heat and sunlight can lead to heat exhaustion and ultimately, heatstroke, a serious condition that happens when your body overheats and then can’t regulate its temperature properly. Symptoms include a rapid pulse, high temperature, confusion, and even loss of consciousness. It can be life threatening if it isn’t treated promptly.
Hot weather and sun exposure can cause increased sweating, leading to dehydration. Dehydration happens when your body loses more fluids than it takes in, and it can lead to symptoms like dizziness, weakness and a dry mouth. Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention.
How can I stay safe in the sun?
To protect your skin and general health, it’s essential to take steps to enjoy the sun responsibly. Here’s our expert’s advice:
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather, to prevent dehydration. Carry a bottle with you and sip on it regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
Wear protective clothing: Cover up with loose-fitting, lightweight, and tightly woven clothing to shield your skin from the sun. Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection too.
Seek shade: Whenever you can, stay in the shade during peak hours of sunlight. This is usually between 10am and 4pm.
Reducing exposure: Try to limit your time outdoors during peak sun hours when the UV rays are strongest. Plan outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense.
Want to learn more about staying healthy this summer? Read more on our blog.
- World Health Organization. (2018). Ultraviolet radiation and the INTERSUN Programme. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/uv/intersunprogramme/en/
- American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). How to prevent heatstroke. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/safety/preventing-heatstroke
- American Cancer Society. (2021). Skin cancer risks and causes. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/what-causes.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Stay cool – How to prevent heat-related illness. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heattips.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). How to select a sunscreen. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen/how-to-select-sunscreen
- Canadian Dermatology Association. (n.d.). Sun protection. Retrieved from https://dermatology.ca/public-patients/sun-protection/
- World Health Organization. (2021). Ultraviolet radiation (UV). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index1.html
- National Institute on Aging. (2020). Stay safe in the sun. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/stay-safe-sun