Protecting Your Body from the Sun

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.[/avatar]With students out of school, and the days lasting much longer, it’s safe to say summer is in full swing. This means it’s time for family vacations and day-long visits to the beach and the park. But with the warm weather and long sunny days come health risks many people either choose to ignore or simply just forget. Rising temperatures and the sun’s harsh rays can lead to immediate and long-term health problems. Here are some tips on how to protect yourself while enjoying your summer.

  • Limit your exposure – According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UV rays are their highest (and most dangerous) from 10 AM to 4 PM. Between these times, the sun is at its most intense, so it’s best to avoid spending too much time in direct sunlight to prevent sunburn. This does not have to stop you from participating in your daily activities or fitness routines, but it’s recommended you do them in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t as strong. If you do plan on being outside, try to stay in the shade as much as possible and follow the rest of these tips for further protection.
  • Wear sunscreen – Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that has both UVA and UVB ray protection. It important to remember to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you’re still in the sun two hours after swimming. Don’t forget to check the expiration date on your sunscreen as well. Sunscreen with no date can’t last more than three years.
  • Wear protective sunglasses – Exposure to bright sunlight can cause cataracts and even eye cancer. Sunglasses that are labeled with 100% UV protection are meant to protect UVA and UVB rays. This is recommended even when it is cloudy; clouds don’t block UV rays. Sunglasses that wrap around your head as opposed to ones with open sides are even better at preventing sun damage.
  • Don’t forget a hat – Hats can help for double protection against UV rays when paired with sunglasses, and protect you from overheating under the harsh sun’s rays.
  • Drink lots of water – Dehydration becomes much more prevalent in the summertime as we lose water from our bodies through sweat. Make sure to drink a lot of water regularly, and not just when you’re thirsty. This will help keep your body healthy and hydrated.
  • Be aware of your medication’s side-effects – Some medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, can cause added sensitivity to the sun. These include antibiotics, antihistamines, antifungals, and some cholesterol-lowering drugs among others. Check with your doctor and pharmacist to know your medicine’s potential side-effects.

We all want to enjoy the warm summer months with our friends and family, but we don’t want to suffer a sunburn or cause any long-term damage to our bodies. With these tips, you can be well prepared to make the most of the sun in a healthy way.