Who doesn’t want to enjoy the sun, doing outdoor activities, water sports, sunbathing or swimming on the beach or simply barbecuing in the backyard?
While basking under the sun can make us look and feel good, make sure you are not getting too much of it. Follow our sun safety tips below to avoid the consequences of excessive sun exposure such as sun-damaged skin, heat exhaustion and dehydration.
What are the Health Risks of Excessive Sun Exposure?
One of the most common misfortunes that can happen to anyone when exposed to the sun is dehydration. Because of the excessive heat, exercising will cause an excessive loss of fluids in the body. Sweating profusely is the body’s way of cooling down. Brisk walking alone can generate nearly 500 millilitres of sweat, depending on the weather conditions.
So how do you know if your body is dehydrated? Obviously, the first and most common reaction of the body is to send out a signal of thirst. Next, you will notice infrequent urination. The urine itself becomes more concentrated and yellowish.
Once the level of dehydration in the body increases, you will experience dry mouth and throat, maybe agitation, light-headedness, weakness, headache, fainting, nausea and vomiting. As dehydration worsens, there may be signs of confusion, deliriousness, heart palpitations or seizures, where urgent emergency medical assistance is needed. The affected individual should also be moved to a cooler place, and cool the body with a cold compress, ice or an electric fan.
Complications of other conditions can also happen due to fluid loss or dehydration in the body. These may include electrolyte imbalance, heat exhaustion, kidney failure, coma, and shock. Without a doubt, summer, among other seasons, is a crucial time to nourish the body with significant amounts of fluids.
Heat illness (heat stroke, heat cramps & heat exhaustion) occurs when the body is exposed to more heat than it can bear. Any person not used to hot weather could possibly suffer from heat illness.
Also called sunstroke, heat stroke happens when there is an overheating of the body, which causes the body’s temperature to rise dramatically. If not properly and promptly treated, this medical emergency can be fatal. Severe hyperthermia happens when the body temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.
The most common symptoms of heat stroke are high body temperature, the absence of sweating, flushed and dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, seizure and coma.
Heatstroke inside the vehicle has become a huge concern for kids. Kids easily overheat, about 3 to 5 times faster than adults. This makes hot cars dangerous in just a few minutes.
Another health risk during summer is skin damage. The sun has a huge effect on your skin, causing skin cancer, premature aging and other skin changes. While baking under the sun for a nice tan can make you look good, the cumulative effects of UV exposure put you at greater risk of age spots, cellular damage and premature wrinkling.
UV exposure may change the texture of your skin, causing skin thinning (which explains the appearance of fine wrinkles) or thickening of the skin, which results in coarse wrinkles.
Changes in the blood vessels could lead to easy bruising on sun-exposed areas. Too much sun exposure can also increase the appearance of spider veins, primarily on the face.
Skin pigmentation is also very common. The most common and noticeable skin pigmentation is the brown spots, also known as solar lentigos. UV exposure can also cause tiny white spots on the arms, legs and back of the hands. Light-skinned people are susceptible to freckles. Bigger freckles, better known as liver spots or age spots, often develop on the chest, arms, shoulders, backs of the hands and upper back.
It is usually normal to have new moles develop from childhood to adolescence, but their development is triggered by sun exposure. Moles are normal but certain moles (those irregular in size and formed in areas not exposed to the sun) may indicate that the person with these types of moles may be susceptible to melanoma, a type of skin cancer.
Why You Need to Know about Sun Safety
With the prevalence of heat stroke and skin cancer these days, learning sun safety is a vital part of improving public health and reducing health risks. Too much UV exposure can be detrimental to your health. Apart from sunburn, excess UV radiation can lead to eye damage, skin cancer, premature aging and immune system suppression.
Nearly 23 percent of lifetime UV exposure starts before the age of 18. With this, understanding sun safety and the dangers of excessive UV exposure is the key to reducing the risk of health problems in the future.
You may check the UV Index chart to see the intensity of UV radiation in your area.
Sun Safety Tips – Enjoy the Sun with Safety in Mind
Many people only consider sun protection when they spend some time at the beach, park, pool or lake. However, the effects of sun exposure accumulates day after day – every time you are under the sun. These seven sun safety tips will help you limit your UV rays and prevent sun-induced illnesses such as dehydration and heat stroke.
Sun Safety Tip #1: Cover up
Did you know that light coloured clothing can reflect the sunlight away from you? Wear lightweight, comfortable and loose cotton clothing that protects the body from the sun. Loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers provide the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Wearing wet shirt provides less protection than dry ones. If wearing these clothes aren’t practical, try to wear at least a beach cover-up or a T-shirt.
Wear a wide-brim hat that can cover the head, face, ears and neck. Using a tightly woven hat like a canvas hat, offers the best protection to your skin. Try to avoid straw hats that has holes. Darker hat may provide more UV protection. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and help lower the risk of cataracts. Choose a sunglass that fits snugly and can block both UVA and UVB rays.
Sun Safety Tip #2: Stay hydrated
Drink at least 8 glasses or 2 litres of water every day. Wherever you go, it is best to bring along water for you to sip throughout the day. Don’t wait for thirst to set in, but drink fluid even if you are not thirsty. Remember that thirst is the first sign that your body is dehydrated. Avoid alcoholic drinks, especially during a hot day, because they increase water loss. Take along and consume more amounts of water during outdoor activities, where increased sweating and heat stress are likely to happen.
Sun Safety Tip #3: Watch out for symptoms of sun poisoning
A very common sun-induced skin problem is sun poisoning. It does not really denote that you have been poisoned, but the term is used to refer to severe sunburn. Within only 15 minutes of sun exposure, your skin can be burned. Discomfort and redness might not manifest for several hours. You are more prone to sun poisoning if you have fair or light skin.
Below are the symptoms of sun poisoning to watch out for:
- Redness and skin blistering
- Facial swelling
- Pain and tingling sensations
- Dizziness or faintness
- Fever and chills
Sun Safety Tip #4: Schedule your activities
Enjoy outdoor activities during the cooler times of the day. Early morning until 10am or after 5pm is the best time to have fun. Let your body adjust to the hot weather conditions by pacing yourself when working or exercising outdoors. In addition, stay under the shade and enjoy a cool breeze or take cool showers to bring down your body temperature.
Sun Safety Tip #5: Eat right.
Start the morning with lots of fluids. Eat light and small meals all throughout the day. Your food diet should include leafy lettuce and summer greens, corn and cucumber. These are great foods that contain significant amounts of water. Include in your diet summer fruits like watermelon, melon and citrus fruits. You can either eat them or extract their juice and store it in the fridge to sip through the day.
Sun Safety tip #6: Use sunscreen
Use sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays (watch the video on the right to learn the effects of UV exposure and the benefits of using sunscreen). However, do not use it as a way of staying long under the sun. Sunscreen only serves as a filter – it cannot block all the UV rays. When choosing sunscreen products, make sure you read the labels. Certain sunscreen ingredients can cause allergic reactions, endocrine and hormonal disruption, cancer, premature aging and other health concerns. To learn more on how to choose a safe and effective sunscreen, read our post about the scary sunscreen ingredient you should avoid.
Sun Safety tip #7: Seek Shade
Avoiding direct sunlight for too long is a very important way of reducing your UV exposure. That is why it is advised to stay indoors between the hours 10am to 4pm (daylight saving time), when UV radiation is strongest. To test the intensity of the sun’s rays, take the shadow test – the shorter the shadow, the stronger the sun’s rays. Ultraviolet rays reach the ground, even on cloudy days. The intensity of UV rays vary depending on the season and other factors. It is strong in the spring, when the temperature starts to get warmer. Many people get sunburned when the weather is even cool because they are not protecting themselves if it is not hot. Take extra caution in areas with snow or on the beach because snow, water and sand reflect sunlight, which heightens the amount of UV rays you receive.
Some UV rays can pass through the window. Most car, office and home windows can block UVB rays but little amount of UVA can still pass, so even if you feel you’re not getting burned, you may still get some skin damage. Always seek shade, particularly during midday. UV radiation that pass through your window may not pose a huge risk unless you spend too much time near a window that gets direct sunlight.
Summer time is the season where sunburn can happen easily if you are not careful. If you do get sunburned, mix one part tea tree oil to 10 parts coconut oil and apply this generously to the affected areas. This concoction is very effective in soothing and relieving pain. It can reduce peeling and blistering too.
Follow these sun safety tips to enjoy the summer and avoid health risks associated with sun exposure.
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