It’s soon to be summertime and the flowers are in bloom, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining. The days are longer. It smells good. It’s warm. And you want to spend every waking moment outside.
Us, too. Actually, hold that thought. Now that you mention it… be right back!
Kidding, kidding. But the point is, we get it. After a frigid, icy winter, it’s only natural that you’d want to enjoy warm afternoons in the sun.
But here’s the deal: that warm sun can be an evil little siren, luring us despite obvious dangers. Yes, the sun can be dangerous – and we’re not just talking sunburn. (Although there’s definitely that, too.) We all need to be aware of the harmful effects of sun exposure and understand the safest time to be in the sun.
The good news is, these not-so-hidden dangers are just that: unhidden. You can see and feel them; you know when they’re happening. And you can also take measures to prevent every, single one.
We’ve all suffered from sunburned skin. It’s red; it’s painful. The mere brush of clothing is enough to unleash hundreds of red-hot needles on your skin.
Sunburn hurts, but the hurt is just temporary – right? Not quite. Yes, the reddened skin and discomfort will pass in a few days, but there are also long-lasting effects of sunburn. Take this statistic, for instance: Just one, blistering childhood or adolescent sunburn more than doubles your risk for melanoma. That’s right, one bad sunburn can equate to a 200% increased risk of skin cancer. Cover up and protect yourself.
Think of sun poisoning as sunburn’s evil stepmother. Though many think of sun poisoning as just bad sunburn, in reality its symptoms can be much more severe, and include: fever, nausea, chills, dizziness, headache, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, dehydration, shock/confusion, faintness and/or loss of consciousness, severe blistering, and facial swelling. And like sunburn, sun poisoning increases your risk of melanoma.
Dehydration is a common but incredibly dangerous risk of sun exposure. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to ignore: thirst, which is the first sign of dehydration, is common when you’re under the sun. But sun-lovers beware: dehydration is life-threatening, if left untreated.
You should always try to avoid dehydration – drink plenty of fluids, reserve physical activity for cooler times of day, consume electrolytes – but you should also be aware of dehydration symptoms: intense thirst, fatigue, light-headedness, dizziness, confusion, dry mouth, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. Children may also suffer listlessness, high fever, irritability, and a sunken abdomen, cheeks, or eyes. If you suspect dehydration, see a doctor immediately.
Like dehydration, heat stroke – the body’s inability to cool itself – is life threatening. Again like dehydration, the symptoms of heat stroke are physical and easy to identify, giving you time to react adequately by cooling your body and seeking medical help. Symptoms of heat stroke include headache, dizziness, agitation, confusion, fatigue, seizure, loss of consciousness, fever or high temperature, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, and hot, dry skin that doesn’t sweat.
Skin cancer, including the very-fatal melanoma, is the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States. The best thing you can do to lower your risk? Protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays, with sunblock, UVA/UVB sunglasses, and clothes and cosmetics with UV protection.
Pass the sunscreen! (Minimum 30SPF, always.)